Do the giant food companies think Americans aren’t sophisticated enough to tell the difference between extra virgin olive oil and regular olive oil? A class action lawsuit filed in Florida says yes.
“[They] do not respect the American olive oil taste palate as a whole and bank on the fact that Americans cannot discern between rancid or adulterated olive oil and true extra virgin olive oil,” the lawsuit states.
The class action lawsuit is brought against the makers of Pompeian, Bertolli and Filippo Berio brand olive oils: American Rice (a subsidiary of Groupo SOS), Pompeian and Salov. Bertolli Brand commands 40 percent of the U.S. market and Salov claim’s 20 percent of the world’s extra virgin olive oil market, the suit claims.
According to the lawsuit, there is no way, “given the time-sensitive and fragile logistic processes involved in mass production of true extra virgin olive oil,” that the defendants can produce nearly the quantities they claim to sell into the United States. Rather, the suit says, the defendants send the real extra virgin olive oil to countries that have a longer history of consuming it and therefor have a more discerning palate, and send “precious little true extra virgin olive oil” to the United States.
To back up its claims, the class action lawsuit states the defendant’s olive oil failed to meet “extra virgin” tests performed by the University of California at Davis in 2010, yet falsely advertises that the products meet the grade set by the International Olive Counsel, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of California. The lawsuit alleges the defendants manipulate the chemistry of their olive oil and synthetically attempt to reach chemical balances that approximate what real extra virgin olive oil might look like under a microscope, but they “cannot fake all the indicators of what true extra virgin olive oil really is, including the sensory test, which is exactly what the Davis study revealed.”
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil Class Action Lawsuit is seeking damages for all persons who purchased either Bertolli, Filippo Berio or Pompeian brand products labeled as “extra virgin” olive oil in the State of Florida. A copy of the lawsuit can be read here.
UPDATE: This isn’t the first class action lawsuit to be filed over fake extra virgin olive oil. A group of prominent California chefs and restaurant owners sued 10 major olive oil distributers and retailers earlier this month. The lawsuit also cited the UC Davis study, which found that 69 percent of imported oil branded as extra virgin did not meet international standards for the label. Only 10 percent of California oils sampled did not meet the standards. The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages as wells as reimbursement. Some of the defendants named in the lawsuit are Bertolli, Filippo Berio, Carapelli, Star, Colavita, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Mazolla and Safeway Select. It also names 10 major supermarket chains and big box stores.
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