FORT LAUDERDALE (CN) – Giant food companies prey upon Americans’ unsophisticated palates by selling olive oil as “Extra Virgin” though it often is “rancid or adulterated,” according to a class action in Broward County Court. The class claims the makers of Pompeian and Filippo Berio brand olive oil “market and sell for a substantial premium their products as being ‘extra virgin olive oil’ when the products clearly do not meet or warrant this grade.”
Lead plaintiff Joseph Nachio sued American Rice, Pompeian Inc. and the Salov North American Corp. Nachio says the International Olive Counsel (sic), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of California, the United States’ largest producer, all have “specific standards for the ‘extra virgin olive oil’ grade.”
The IOC defines extra virgin as “olive oil which has a free acidity of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams,” and also uses “both chemical and sensory standards to determine quality.”
The class claims the defendants’ olive oil brands failed to meet the “extra virgin” when tested by the University of California at Davis, but the companies continue to “dupe consumers in Florida by falsely advertising that the products meet the grade.”
The class claims the defendants “do not respect the American olive oil taste pallet (sic) as a whole and bank on the fact that Americans cannot discern between rancid or adulterated olive oil and true extra virgin olive oil.”
It claims that “given the time-sensitive and fragile logistic processes involved in mass production true extra virgin olive oil, the defendants cannot produce nearly the quantities they claim to sell into the United States. Indeed the defendants do not even bother sending Americans true grade ‘extra virgin olive oil.’ The defendants use the precious little true extra virgin olive oil for sale to consumers in countries that have a longer history of consuming extra virgin olive oil and a taste pallet (sic) that commands only this true high quality product. …
“To further this advertizing (sic) deception, the defendants manipulate the chemistry of their olive oil and synthetically attempts to reach chemical balances that approximate what real ‘extra virgin olive oil’ might look light (sic) under a microscope. But the defendants cannot fake all the indicators of what true extra virgin olive oil really is, including the sensory test, which is exactly what the Davis stuffy revealed.”
American Rice is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Spanish company “Groupo (sic) SOS,” according to the complaint. Its Bertolli brand is “the strongest selling olive oil in the world.”
Pompeian, based in Baltimore, is “a jointly held entity with Spanish and Moroccan owners.”
Salov, of New York and New Jersey, promotes, distributes and sells Filippi Berio oil. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Salov S.P.A. and sells 20 percent of the world’s extra virgin olive oil, according to the complaint.
The class seeks restitution, disgorgement, damages, and a “corrective advertising campaign.” It is represented by Stuart Davidson with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd of Boca Raton.