A U.S. class action lawsuit against popular brands of olive oil alleges the products are neither "made in Italy" nor "extra virgin" as the labels say.
A California federal judge has approved two class actions lawsuits against the makers of Filippo Berio brand olive oil, sold through Safeway, and against the importers of Bertolli and Carapelli olive oils.
The lawsuits allege companies Salov North America Corp., maker of Filippo Berio olive oil, and Deoleo USA, which makes Bertolli and Carapelli, are mislabelling and misleading consumers.
All three brands are also sold in Canada.
A request from the companies to dismiss the lawsuits was turned down earlier this year.
In the case of Filippo Berio olive oil, the bottle has a label saying "imported from Italy" but a small print text says olives are grown in Spain, Greece and Tunisia as well as Italy.
The suit also alleged Salov's extra virgin olive oil failed to meet state or federal standards for the term "extra virgin," claiming the company mixed the products with refined oil and packaged them in clear bottles which means the oil can be damaged by sunlight.
Similarly, a separate class action against Deoleo alleges the oils can't be "extra virgin" since a refined oil is added to the mix.
The Bertolli and Carapelli olive oils also are labelled "imported from Italy" when the product also includes oil from olives from several different countries.
The suits claim damages on behalf of all U.S. users of the products.
The class action lawsuits are being led by Gutride Safier LLP, a California law firm that specializes in class actions.
According to journalist Tom Mueller, lax enforcement in the U.S. and Canada means many olive oils sold here may not even come from olives.
The North American Olive Oil Association has been so worried about olive oil quality it created a seal to identify products that meet the International Olive Council standard for olive oil.
A 2011 study by University of California found most olive oils sold in the state failed to meet international standards to be considered "virgin" or "extra virgin."