Deoleo Agrees to Settle Lawsuit for $7 Million

The Spanish olive oil behemoth will settle with plaintiffs, paying out $7 million as well as agreeing to change labels and take measures to improve quality.

By Daniel Dawson
Apr. 12, 2018 13:59 UTC

The pro­duc­ers of the Bertolli and Carapelli brands of olive oil have set­tled a class-action law­suit for $7 mil­lion and agreed to change the label­ing on their pack­ages.

Defendants charge a pre­mium by deceiv­ing cus­tomers into believ­ing that their oil is of Italian ori­gin.- Plaintiff Scott Koller

In May, 2014, seven plain­tiffs filed a com­plaint against Deoleo, USA and Med Foods, Inc — both of which are sub­sidiaries of the Spanish olive oil multi­na­tional, Deoleo, SA — alleg­ing that the com­pany had fraud­u­lently labeled some of its olive oils as Imported from Italy” when olives from at least seven other coun­tries had been used.

The set­tle­ment will likely be approved in May when the two sides return to court. Plaintiffs are report­edly push­ing for the class of con­sumers to be expanded from the orig­i­nal six states filed in the law­suit to all 50, con­tend­ing that the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion affected con­sumers in all states equally.

In court doc­u­ments filed at the United States District Court in San Francisco, the plain­tiffs said the defen­dants had know­ingly led con­sumers to believe that the prod­ucts were made in Italy from Italian olives in order to charge a pre­mium price for them.

Defendants’ con­duct is false and decep­tive because Mock Italian Products are made from a sub­stan­tial amount of olives grown and oil pressed in many coun­tries other than Italy,” court doc­u­ments read. The oil is not Imported from Italy’ but rather is imported from a vari­ety of coun­tries and at best packed’ or bot­tled’ in Italy. Defendants charge a pre­mium by deceiv­ing cus­tomers into believ­ing that their oil is of Italian ori­gin.”

We are able to trace our prod­ucts from the grove to the shelf. This ensures qual­ity and con­sis­tency at every stage of pro­duc­tion.- Deoleo

Deoleo, USA and Med Foods, Inc coun­tered that each of their bot­tles con­tained a dis­claimer in small font: Product con­tains select high qual­ity [olive oils] from the coun­tries indi­cated by the let­ters below,” along with a dot matrix printed with one or more of the applic­a­ble coun­try codes.

However, under the Tariff Act of 1930, in sit­u­a­tions where a prod­uct is com­posed of ingre­di­ents from var­i­ous coun­tries of ori­gin, all the coun­tries must be dis­closed in close prox­im­ity” to the imported from” or made in” labels. The United States Food and Drug Administration fur­ther cod­i­fied this in updated health and safety reg­u­la­tions in 2012.

As part of the set­tle­ment, the com­pany has agreed to remove the phrase Imported from Italy” from all of its prod­ucts.

The plain­tiffs also called into ques­tion whether the oil met the International Olive Council stan­dards of extra vir­gin due to the use of clear, non-light pro­tec­tive bot­tles as well as inad­e­quate stor­age and trans­porta­tion meth­ods.

As a result, the com­pany has started bot­tling its extra vir­gin olive oils in dark green bot­tles to pro­tect against pho­todegra­da­tion and has agreed to under­take stricter qual­ity tests of its oils before export­ing them.

This is not the first time Deoleo has had the qual­ity of its Bertolli and Carapelli brands called into ques­tion. In 2016, the com­pany issued a recall of the extra vir­gin olive oils of both brands in 20 states. The com­pany was also fined that same year by the Italian Antitrust Authority for mis­la­bel­ing its olive oils in Italian super­mar­kets.

In spite of agree­ing to set­tle, Deoleo con­tended in court fil­ings that they sys­tem­at­i­cally doc­u­ment and cer­tify the ori­gin of all of their olives and olive oil.

We are able to trace our prod­ucts from the grove to the shelf,” the com­pany stated in court fil­ings. This ensures qual­ity and con­sis­tency at every stage of pro­duc­tion.”


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