New York City, NY — The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), which had recently filed a lawsuit against TV personality and physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, has now taken legal action against importer and bulk specialty olive oil distributor Veronica Foods, as well as seven other specialty retail stores across New York State. The complaint NAOOA filed alleges that the defendants made false, misleading and scientifically unsubstantiated statements about supermarket olive oils lacking health benefits in an effort to promote Veronica Foods products. In turn, they described their products as the “freshest and finest” and claimed to be healthier than other olive oils.
NAOOA argues that there are proven health benefits to all types of olive oil because they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. For this reason, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified heart health claim for olive oil in 2004 based on more than 70 clinical studies conducted in several countries.
“Rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific research has consistently shown that all types of olive oil have significant health benefits, not just those available in specialty retail stores,” said Eryn Balch, Executive Vice President of the NAOOA in press release. “Because the health benefits are proven across the category, we don’t want consumers to be misled into making a false choice between buying a more expensive olive oil or not buying olive oil at all.”
NAOOA’s complaint also takes issue with Veronica Foods’ new “Ultra Premium” standard for olive oil which touts a higher standard but the complaint says is misleading customers into believing this to be a certifier of third party approval. It is however, a self-certifying commercial trademark created by Veronica Foods that can be only used by its products and the retailers that sell them. This is in contrast to NAOOA’s own seal which requires participating companies to pass testing by independent International Olive Oil Council (IOC) labs.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York. In addition to Veronica Foods, which is based in Oakland, Calif., the named retail defendants include D’Avolio, Inc. (Williamsville, N.Y.), O Live Brooklyn, LLC (Brooklyn, N.Y.), The Crushed Olive of Babylon, Inc. (Babylon, N.Y.), The Crushed Olive of Huntington, Inc. (Huntington, N.Y.), The Crushed Olive of Sayville, Inc. (Sayville, N.Y.), The Crushed Olive of Stonybrook, Inc. (Stony Brook, N.Y.), and The Crushed Olive of Wading River, Inc. (Port Jefferson, N.Y.).
In a written response to the Olive Oil Times, Veronica Foods stated that they “are committed to providing consumers with the highest quality products available and rely on state of the art scientific research and independent lab testing,” citing research by U.C. Davis and Modern Olive Labs, as well as experts Christian Gertz and Thomas Mueller. They also questioned the motives of NAOOA stating “We believe the NAOOA has filed this lawsuit against Veronica Foods in an attempt to interfere with our efforts to improve the quality of olive oil and accuracy of olive oil labeling. We look forward to proving the falsehood of inaccurate and self-serving allegations made by the NAOOA in court.”