Steve Allen, former vice president of new business at food giant Nestlé, said he is not surprised by the recent actions of both POM and the FTC. Still, he feels the pomegranate company faces an uphill battle. "[I] would not bet against the agencies in a case like this," Allen said. "POM will have the burden of proof to show that its claims are supported by peer-reviewed, published, medical evidence. In particular the agency is likely to focus attention on claims connected to prostate cancer, where the published clinical evidence is limited."

As Allen noted, the FTC complaint specifically questioned POM's non-blinded, clinical trial that measured markers of prostate health. "The researchers who conducted this study wrote that the clinical significance of the markers is unknown and further, placebo-controlled trials are needed," Allen added. "A related question will be the need for confirmation of research results by scientists who are independently funded."

POM reports that it has spent some $34 million on research to "prove scientifically" that POM has antioxidant activity and acts as an antioxidant in the body. This is a lot of money for a company in the nutraceutical or functional food industry to invest in science, and many of the people interviewed posed a similar question: Where's the research?

"If POM has the data to substantiate the claims it is making, I don't see why the company wouldn't have pursued working with the FDA to get a health claim," said Daniel Fabricant, vice president of global government and scientific affairs at the Natural Products Association. "I know that process takes a while. but you would think they would have started it if they had the data [to support a health claim]."