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