A class action lawsuit in California against major olive oil importers and retailers has been withdrawn according to several sources. Attorneys for the plaintiffs decided not to proceed after they were unable to scientifically reproduce the results of a study that was central to their complaint.
The study carried out by the University of California, Davis found that sixty-nine percent of imported olive oil samples researchers chose from supermarkets in the state failed to reach chemical and taste standards to be labelled extra virgin at the time they were analyzed.
The study’s methods drew fire from a group of chemists at the International Olive Council who called the tests unreliable, while the European olive oil producers whose brands were implicated argued that
the transportation and storage conditions, which need to be carefully monitored to maintain olive oil quality over time, were out of their control.
While the complaint in California has been pulled, similar lawsuits remain in a few other states including Florida and Washington sources say. Whether or not those will be dropped following California ‘s lead is yet to be seen.
One of the olive oil importers has already spent “hundreds of thousands” on the legal defense of the suits. An executive involved in the litigations said while he was hopeful the copycat complaints would also go away, it would take months before they too are resolved.
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In California the withdrawl of the lawsuit marks the close of a highly-publicized, celebrity-studded complaint in the aftermath of the July, 2010 study that drew fantastic headlines like “That Olive Oil is No Virgin”.
The study was conducted by the University of California at Davis’ Olive Center which is supported by the California Olive Oil Council, whose members stood to gain from the discrediting of imported olive oil. California olive oil producers provide about one percent of the olive oil consumed in the United States, but they are developing the capacity to supply much more than that.