By Janee Law
The North American Olive Oil Association has filed a false advertising lawsuit against olive oil distributor Veronica Foods, and seven related specialty retail stores across New York, including The Crushed Olive in Huntington.
The suit alleges that the distributor and stores made false statements regarding olive oils sold at supermarkets in an effort to promote their product. However, the CEO of the California-based distributor said she’s standing by the truth and accuracy of those statements.
In the lawsuit, NAOOA alleges that Veronica Foods made “misleading and scientifically unsubstantiated statements about olive oil sold at supermarkets, claiming it lacks the health benefits consumers expect. “The lawsuit also alleges that Veronica Foods, on its website, markets its “Ultra Premium” grade as the highest standard in the industry.
Eryn Balch, executive vice president of the NAOOA, said the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York on Monday.
She said the association — which represents brands like Botticelli Foods, Columbus Vegetable Oils and Gourmet Foods International — has set out to “correct false information about olive oil that was disseminated by Veronica Foods and related retail specialty stores.” Peer-reviewed and scientific research results have shown that all types of olive oils have significant health benefits, including reducing heart disease, Balch said.
“Ultimately, this suit is about making sure that consumers know the facts, so they can make decisions that are best for their health and their tastes,” she added.
But Veronica Foods CEO Veronica Bradley is standing by her company’s and the retailer’s statements.
“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,” Bradley said in an emailed statement.
Bradley added that NAOOA filed the lawsuit “in an attempt to interfere with our efforts to improve the quality of olive oil and accuracy of olive oil labeling.
“...We look forward to proving the falsehood of inaccurate and self-serving allegations made by the NAOOA in court.”
Along with The Crushed Olive in Huntington, the lawsuit cites The Crushed Olive’s Babylon, Sayville, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson locations; D’Avolio in Williamsville; and O Live Brooklyn.
Mona Rossero, owner of The Crushed Olive in Huntington, said the retail stores got caught in the crosshairs of the complaint.
“The complaint is not about our product, rather our distributor, Veronica Foods, regarding substandard olive oils on the market,” Rossero said Wednesday. “I don’t want to give this more life than it deserves.”