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."

Stock Image
Dec. 19, 2016
By Olive Oil Times Staff
Stock Image

Recent News

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.

Advertisement

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.”



Related News