A 2014 class action lawsuit filed in California against Deoleo, the maker of Bertolli olive oil, has settled. The case concerned allegations that Deoleo had (1) marketed and sold Bertolli Olive Oil Products with the representation “Imported from Italy,” although most of the oil was extracted in countries other than Italy from olives grown outside Italy; and (2) mislabeled the Bertolli EVOO because its procurement, bottling, and distribution practices did not adequately ensure that the oil would meet the “extra virgin” standard through the date of retail sale or the “best by” date on the bottles.
Deoleo has agreed to remove the phrase “Imported from Italy” from its products and has also agreed to refrain from using similar phrases, such as “Made in Italy,” unless the oil is entirely from olives grown and pressed in Italy. Deoleo also has begun to bottle its EVOO in dark green bottles to protect it from light degradation and has agreed to continue to use such bottles. It has also agreed to stricter testing protocols at the time of bottling and to shorten the “best by” period and disclose the date of harvest on every bottle of Bertolli EVOO, to better ensure that the oil remains “extra virgin” at time of sale and use. Deoleo also will pay $7 million into a common fund for consumers.
While the claim as to the product's degree of virginity here may be somewhat unusual, false statement of origin claims for food and beverage products have been exceedingly common in recent years. Plaintiffs' lawyers, if not consumers themselves, are clearly scrutinizing labels closely.
Tuesday’s agreement would end a dispute that began in 2014, when Scott Koller claimed Deoleo violated the Tariff Act of 1930 by falsely stating its olive oil was “imported from Italy.” A reasonable consumer would believe the product is made with olives grown and pressed in Italy, but the olive oil actually is made entirely with olives that are not from the Italy, the suit said.