Fulton County, GA—According to a report in Reuters, the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), Neptune, NJ a trade group representing importers of olive oil has filed a lawsuit against television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz as well as Entertainment Media Ventures Inc and ZoCo Productions LLC, the business entities that promote and produce “The Doctor Oz Show.” The suit focuses on a particular May 12 episode titled, “Food Truth: What’s Really in Your Pancake Syrup,” in which Oz and his featured guest Maia Hirschbein, who was introduced as a “certified oleologist,” discussed their concerns about the adulteration of imported olive oil, citing the seizure of 7,000 tons of “fraudulent olive oil” in Italy.
NAOOA’s objections stem from the fact that Oz did not disclose on the program that Hirschbein is employed by California Olive Ranch, a private company that competes with foreign olive oil manufacturers. Additionally, the Italian olive oil seizure targeted oils labeled as “100% Italian,” which the show failed to specify, implying that the inventory seized was not olive oil when in fact despite being blended from different locations was all sourced from olive.
Interviewed by WholeFoods for another story, NAOOA acknowledges that imported olive oil can be adulterated with vegetable or seed oils such as soybean, canola or peanut oil, lower-grade olive oil or olive-pomace, oil labeled as a higher grade. However, after extensive testing of their own between 2013 and 2015, the group found that 95% of samples of oil met or exceeded quality and purity standards.
While based in New Jersey, NAOOA has clients that conduct business in Georgia, one of 13 states that have food libel laws that make it easier for food companies to sue people who make disparaging reports about their products. The group is suing for an unspecified sum in damages and payment for the group’s legal fees.