N. America

Trade Group Sues Specialty Store Distributor for ‘False Statements’

The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) filed a lawsuit against California-based distributor Veronica Foods for what it called "false, misleading and scientifically unsubstantiated statements."

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Dec. 19, 2016
By Olive Oil Times Staff
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The trade group of major Amer­i­can importers of olive oil, the North Amer­i­can Olive Oil Asso­ci­a­tion (NAOOA), filed a law­suit against the Cal­i­for­nia-based, spe­cialty store dis­trib­u­tor Veron­ica Foods for what it called false, mis­lead­ing and sci­en­tif­i­cally unsub­stan­ti­ated state­ments about olive oil sold in super­mar­kets, claim­ing it lacks the health ben­e­fits con­sumers expect.”

The real­ity is that Defen­dant VFC’s UP mark and seal is a self-cre­ated des­ig­na­tion used exclu­sively by VFC and its retail­ers to sell VFC olive oil.- NAOOA Com­plaint

The law­suit comes one week after the NAOOA filed a com­plaint against TV’s Dr. Oz,’ also for mak­ing unsub­stan­ti­ated claims about imported olive oils.

Veron­ica Foods sup­plies olive oils to hun­dreds of spe­cialty retails shops through­out the U.S. where oils are dis­played in stain­less con­tain­ers, called fusti, and cus­tomers are invited to taste oils before they make a pur­chase. Seven New York-area Veron­ica-sup­plied retail­ers were also named in the law­suit.

The dis­trib­u­tor and the retail­ers it sup­plies mar­ket their oils as being Ultra Pre­mium’ grade, which it touts as the high­est stan­dard in the indus­try,” accord­ing to the NAOOA com­plaint that cited the Veron­ica Foods web­site.

The real­ity is that Defen­dant VFC’s UP mark and seal is a self-cre­ated des­ig­na­tion used exclu­sively by VFC and its retail­ers to sell VFC olive oil. Thus, the use of the UP des­ig­na­tion itself is false and mis­lead­ing in that con­sumers are led to believe that the olive oil was cer­ti­fied, spon­sored or approved by a third party,” the NAOOA argued.


The UP stan­dard and seal is reserved only for VFC olive oils and can­not, pur­suant to VFC’s fed­eral trade­mark rights, be used by any other pro­ducer or seller, even if that producer’s prod­ucts meet or exceed the para­me­ters of VFC’s UP stan­dard,” the NAOOA argued.

What Defen­dants fail to state to the con­sumer is that the UP des­ig­na­tion and so-called high­est stan­dard’ can­not be dis­played on the pack­ag­ing of any other pro­ducer of olive oil regard­less of that olive oil’s qual­ity, because that alleged stan­dard and seal is the intel­lec­tual prop­erty of Defen­dant VFC and its licensees.”

The NAOOA also took issue with claims made on the web­site of a Veron­ica-sup­plied retailer: Defen­dant D’Avolio, a retailer of VFC’s olive oil, has par­tic­u­larly tar­geted brands sold in super­mar­kets, where NAOOA mem­bers’ brands are pri­mar­ily sold. In pro­mot­ing its own UP cer­ti­fied olive oils (pur­chased from VFC), D’Avolio dis­torts find­ings of an alleged indus­try report to rep­re­sent to con­sumers that var­i­ous brands sold in super­mar­kets hold no health ben­e­fits.”

Defen­dants are engaged in a tar­geted and con­certed effort to attack the NAOOA and its mem­bers’ olive oil prod­ucts sold in super­mar­kets,” the com­plaint said.

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. 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.”

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.).

Veron­ica Foods responded by say­ing it stands by the truth and accu­racy of all of the state­ments we have made related to olive oil and our related prod­ucts.”

We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing con­sumers with the high­est qual­ity prod­ucts avail­able and rely on state of the art sci­en­tific research and inde­pen­dent lab test­ing,” the com­pany wrote in an email to Olive Oil Times. Our sources include pub­lished U.C. Davis research, test­ing and research by Mod­ern Olives Lab­o­ra­tory, a world lead­ing olive oil test­ing com­pany, and lead­ing experts such as Chris­t­ian Gertz and Thomas Mueller.”

The North Amer­i­can Olive Oil Asso­ci­a­tion (the NAOOA”) is a trade orga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents some of the largest national and inter­na­tional olive oil sell­ers in the coun­try. 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,” said Veron­ica Foods in its writ­ten response. We look for­ward to prov­ing the false­hood of inac­cu­rate and self-serv­ing alle­ga­tions made by the NAOOA in court.”

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