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Trade Group’s Lawsuit Against ‘Dr. Oz’ is Dismissed

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford J. Dempsey, Jr. said that the Court was “not convinced” that the Dr. Oz Show disparaged imported olive oil or falsely labeled it a “health hazard.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz
Mar. 3, 2017
By Olive Oil Times Staff
Dr. Mehmet Oz

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The law­suit filed in Geor­gia by the trade group that rep­re­sents the largest Amer­i­can importers and bot­tlers that chal­lenged tele­vi­sion’s Dr. Oz on what it called false attacks” that sin­gled out imported olive oils, has been dis­missed, the show said today.

We’re dis­ap­pointed with the judge’s deci­sion which was not based on the under­ly­ing mer­its of our case but on tech­ni­cal­i­ties.- Eryn Balch, NAOOA

Oz was sued by the North Amer­i­can Olive Oil Asso­ci­a­tion (NAOOA) for claim­ing dur­ing a show that aired last May that 80 per­cent of the extra vir­gin olive oil sold in U. S. super­mar­kets isn’t real.”

The NAOOA claimed that the inci­dence of mis­la­bel­ing is much lower and argued in court that it was only 2 per­cent.

Ful­ton County Supe­rior Court (Geor­gia) judge Alford J. Dempsey, Jr. said that the Court was not con­vinced” that the show dis­par­aged imported olive oil or falsely labeled it a health haz­ard” as the suit alleged.

Dr. Oz goes so far as to encour­age his audi­ence mem­bers to sam­ple some of the olive oils being taste-tested on the show, which the Court must pre­sume he would not do if the gist of the show was that the olive oils on Amer­i­can shelves were a health haz­ard,” the judge said.

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Dempsey fur­ther deter­mined that the NAOOA did not estab­lish a case under the Geor­gia law pop­u­larly known as a Veg­gie Libel Statute. This is the same type of law that some cat­tle feed­ers in Texas unsuc­cess­fully used as the basis of a law­suit against Oprah Win­frey nearly 20 years ago.

Judge Dempsey expressed grave con­cerns that the moti­va­tion for the present action falls directly within the pur­pose of the anti-SLAPP statute as an attempt to chill speech, in this case, in the com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place,” accord­ing to a press release issued by Oz.

We’re dis­ap­pointed with the judge’s deci­sion which was not based on the under­ly­ing mer­its of our case but on tech­ni­cal­i­ties in the Geor­gia anti-SLAPP statute which pro­tect media defen­dants,” Eryn Balch, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the NAOOA told Olive Oil Times today in response to the deci­sion.

Noth­ing in the deci­sion lends cre­dence to the unsub­stan­ti­ated attacks on olive oil made on The Dr. Oz seg­ment and we are eval­u­at­ing our options for appeal. Our goal was and remains to help con­sumers get the facts about heart-healthy olive oil, and we will con­tinue to explore every means at our dis­posal to cor­rect the record,” Balch said.

For 25 years the NAOOA has used inde­pen­dent Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC) labs to test hun­dreds of olive oils col­lected directly from super­mar­kets annu­ally and results con­sis­tently sup­port the find­ing that more than 98 per­cent of olive oil in U.S. retail out­lets is authen­tic,” she added.

Rig­or­ous, peer-reviewed sci­en­tific research has con­sis­tently shown that all types of olive oil have sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits, includ­ing reduc­ing heart dis­ease,” Balch said when the suit was filed. This case is par­tic­u­larly trou­bling because in many pre­vi­ous con­tro­ver­sies Dr. Oz has rec­om­mended prod­ucts with no proven ben­e­fits, but in this case, his false and care­less words have dis­cour­aged mil­lions of peo­ple from using a prod­uct with sci­en­tif­i­cally demon­strated advan­tages.”

Specif­i­cally, the NAOOA said, the prob­lems with Oz’s state­ments were:

  • His 80 per­cent claim is patently false and com­pletely unsourced;
  • He relies on a sub­jec­tive, taste-dri­ven sen­sory test when only a sci­en­tific chem­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory test can deter­mine if olive oil is pure; and
  • Oz failed to dis­close that his expert,” Maia Hirschbein, was on the pay­roll of Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch, which has a finan­cial inter­est in pro­mot­ing Cal­i­for­nia olive oil and dis­parag­ing olive oil orig­i­nat­ing out­side the state.

Amy Chiaro, the exec­u­tive pro­ducer of The Dr. Oz Show said, We are thrilled to be vin­di­cated in this law­suit and will con­tinue to inves­ti­gate and speak the truth about the impor­tance of proper label­ing on the foods we eat.”

In 2013, Oz told view­ers to test the qual­ity of their olive oil by putting it in the refrig­er­a­tor to see if it con­gealed. The method was soon debunked as a myth by researchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Davis Olive Cen­ter.

Oz has fre­quently come under fire from his peers in the med­ical pro­fes­sion. A study pub­lished in the British Med­ical Jour­nal on Oz’s med­ical advice found that more than half of his rec­om­men­da­tions had no sci­en­tific sup­port, or con­tra­dicted sci­en­tific evi­dence out­right.

In April 2015, a group of ten physi­cians from across the United States, includ­ing Henry Miller, a fel­low in sci­en­tific phi­los­o­phy and pub­lic pol­icy at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty’s Hoover Insti­tute, sent a let­ter to Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity call­ing Oz’s fac­ulty posi­tion unac­cept­able. They accused Oz of an egre­gious lack of integrity by pro­mot­ing quack treat­ments and cures in the inter­est of per­sonal finan­cial gain.”

Geor­gia has food libel laws with a lower legal bur­den than tra­di­tional libel laws of other states mak­ing it eas­ier for food com­pa­nies to sue peo­ple who make dis­parag­ing remarks about their prod­ucts.

This is a break­ing news arti­cle. Check back for updates.

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