A lawsuit against Veronica Foods, the major American distributor for olive oil shops and tasting bars, has been dismissed.
Yesterday, the defendants’ motions to dismiss the complaint were granted after the court found that “standing had not been established,” and the case was closed.
We’re disappointed with the court’s decision, which was not based on the underlying merits of our case but on a technicality.
The trade group of major American importers of olive oil, the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), filed the lawsuit against the California-based, specialty store distributor Veronica Foods and some of its New York-area retailers for what it called “false, misleading and scientifically unsubstantiated statements about olive oil sold in supermarkets, claiming it lacks the health benefits consumers expect.”
Veronica Foods supplies olive oils to hundreds of specialty retails shops throughout the U.S. where oils are displayed in stainless containers, called fusti. Customers are invited to taste oils before they make a purchase, and oils are sold in bottles bearing the shop’s private label.
Joseph R. Profaci, the newly-appointed executive director of the NAOOA told Olive Oil Times today, “Sure, we’re disappointed with the court’s decision, which was not based on the underlying merits of our case but on a technicality. We disagree with the conclusion that the NAOOA does not have standing to sue on behalf of its members, and we are considering all of our options.”
“We stand by the allegations of the complaint,” Profaci added. “While we have nothing against Veronica Foods and other companies that market oils through specialty shops, we object to marketing practices that we believe are misleading to consumers, and cause consumers to believe that the health benefits of olive oil are only available in oils sold through such specialty outlets.”
Veronica Foods and the retailers it supplies market their oils as being ‘Ultra Premium,’ “which it touts as the highest standard in the industry,” according to the NAOOA complaint that cited the Veronica Foods website.
The NAOOA complained that the Veronica Foods’ use of its Ultra Premium mark and seal was a “self-created designation used exclusively by the company and its retailers to sell Veronica Foods olive oils. 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 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.”
Veronica Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but earlier said: “ We stand 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 in response to the lawsuit last December. “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 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.
Earlier this year, a Georgia court dismissed another NAOOA lawsuit against the television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz that challenged what the NAOOA called “false attacks” that singled out imported olive oils, and for claiming during a show that 80 percent of the extra virgin olive oil sold in U. S. supermarkets isn’t “real.”