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Hands Off Olive Oil, Retailer Tells State

HARTFORD (CN) - Connecticut was the first state to set standards for purity of olive oil, but a New York importer is challenging the new regulations, saying the Nutmeg State exceeded its authority in becoming the arbiter of olive oil. Kangadis Foods claims that Connecticut's Department of Consumer Protection exceeded its authority by adopting the regulations because "federal standards of identity for olive oil exist and have existed since about 1948."

The Federal Olive Oil Standards, which were updated on June 2, 2008, "provide a uniform language for commerce and facilitate the marketing of olive oil and olive-pomace oil," Kangadis dba The Gourmet Factory claims in Superior Court.

Connecticut's regulations took effect in Nov. 5 2008, a few months after the new federal regulations and before California adopted a law which conforms olive oil labeling and grades with international standards.

In addition to trumping federal regulations, Kangadis claims Connecticut's regulation violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it requires olive oil to meet the International Olive Council standards as "amended from time to time."

Connecticut's Uniform Administrative Procedures Act requires state agencies to provide public notice and a comment period before amending any regulations. Since the International Olive Council standards may change it means that the state olive oil standards could change without notice or public comment.

Proponents of improving Connecticut's olive oil standards included Norwalk importer Luciano Sclafani and Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele.

"We need to make sure things are truly what they appear to be," Fedele said at a press conference last November. He said many people are allergic to nuts, and olive oil tested by the state contained soybean, hazel nut, and peanut oils.

"If their product is 100 percent olive oil, it must say that," Fedele said. "If other oils are mixed in, that must be noted."

Sclafani had been pushing for years to get the state to implement some sort of uniform standards for olive oil. "Olive oil is one of the most passionate things with me," Sclafani said in November.

Kangadis Food seeks declaratory relief and wants the state enjoined from enforcing its olive oil regulations, which include random tests to see if what's on store shelves has been adulterated. It says it has exhausted its administrative appeals.

Kangadis Food is represented by Brett Boskiewicz with Robinson and Cole.

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