N. America

Trade Group Sues Olive Oil Producer for Deceptive Labeling

Feb. 7, 2013
By Nancy Flagg

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In its first-ever legal action against an olive oil com­pany, the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) is suing the makers of the Capatriti brand of oil. The civil law­suit, filed on February 6, claims that The Gourmet Factory falsely sells oil that is chem­i­cally extracted from left­over olive skins and pits as “100% Pure Olive Oil.”

Through its “unlaw­ful, mis­lead­ing and decep­tive mis­brand­ing,” the NAOOA claims that the public is unknow­ingly con­sum­ing low qual­ity pomace oil. Olive pomace oil is high in fatty acids, must undergo sev­eral refine­ment processes to make it fit for human con­sump­tion and does not meet the legal def­i­n­i­tion of olive oil, accord­ing to the com­plaint action.

In addi­tion, the NAOOA com­plaint states that The Gourmet Factory, owned by Kangadis Food, Inc. is engag­ing in unfair com­pe­ti­tion. Adulterated oil can be man­u­fac­tured at sub­stan­tially lower cost than authen­tic olive oil and by mis­la­bel­ing their oil as 100% Pure Olive Oil, the com­pany is able to under­cut legit­i­mate pro­duc­ers, says the NAOOA.

The com­pany engages in “adul­ter­ation for eco­nomic gain,” alleged NAOOA Executive Vice President Eryn Balch.

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The NAOOA first took inter­est in the Capatriti brand when it “observed sig­nif­i­cant price dis­crep­ancy in recent months,” said Balch. The law­suit doc­u­ments state that Capatriti’s “100% Pure Olive Oil” sells for one-third to one-half the prices authen­tic olive oil pro­duc­ers charge.

The asso­ci­a­tion hired an inde­pen­dent third-party to col­lect sam­ples for test­ing by an International Olive Council lab in Spain. The lab results showed that the sam­ples were “at best, some type of pomace and, at worst, may also con­tain seed oils,” accord­ing to the com­plaint doc­u­ment.

The doc­u­ment fur­ther claims that pass­ing off pomace oil as pure olive oil “is not some­thing that can be done by acci­dent or through mere neg­li­gence” and that the “Gourmet Factory intends to deceive con­sumers into pur­chas­ing its adul­ter­ated edible oil prod­ucts.”

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The Capatriti brand accounts for more than 15 per­cent of the olive oil market in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states, accord­ing to the NAOOA. The law­suit asks that the com­pany be pro­hib­ited from label­ing and sell­ing its pomace or other non-olive oils as “olive oil” and seeks statu­tory dam­ages on behalf of its mem­bers.

The NAOOA is a trade asso­ci­a­tion rep­re­sent­ing olive oil mar­keters, pack­agers and importers.

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Kangadis Foods, Inc. owner, George Ignatiadis, was con­tacted for com­ment about the law­suit, but he said that he was not aware of it.