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Trade Group Suing Dr. Oz Over Fake Olive Oil Claims

Dan Industry News Release, Tree, nut & vine crops

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The North American Olive Oil Association has filed a lawsuit against television host Dr. Oz under a largely untested Georgia food libel law, objecting to his claims that much of the imported extra virgin olive oil sold in U.S. supermarkets may be fake, according to Reuters. The New Jersey-based association seeks an unspecified amount in damages. The lawsuit claims Dr. Oz, host of a popular daytime TV talk show, violated the Georgia law when he stated that 80 percent of the extra virgin olive oil sold in supermarkets “isn’t the real deal” and “may even be fake.” The association says those claims are untrue. The lawsuit centers around a May 12th episode in which the host talked with a so-called oil expert that spoke about “fraudulent olive oil” being imported into the United States. The association says Dr. Oz failed to disclose his guest worked for the California Olive Ranch that competes with foreign olive oil manufacturers. The association says its own testing has found 95 percent of imported oil met or exceeded quality and purity standards between 2013 and 2015.

From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service.

From: North American Olive Oil Association

Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, who has come under fire for relying on junk science, unproven claims and questionable sources, was sued yesterday by the North American Olive Oil Association in Fulton County Georgia under that state’s food libel statute in connection with allegations made on his show regarding the quality and integrity of olive oil sold in U.S. supermarkets.

The story in question first aired on May 12, 2016. According to the complaint filed by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), Dr. Oz falsely stated that a “shocking 80% of the extra virgin olive oil that you buy every day in your supermarket isn’t the real deal. It may even be fake.” The complaint further alleges that Dr. Oz falsely portrayed olive oils as “mixed with artificial colors and less expensive oils.” In reality, for 25 years, NAOOA has used independent International Olive Council (IOC) labs to test hundreds of olive oils collected directly from supermarkets annually, and results consistently show that more than 98 percent of olive oil in U.S. retail outlets is authentic. The IOC was chartered by the United Nations more than 50 years ago to oversee the production and quality of olive oil around the world.

“Rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific research has consistently shown that all types of olive oil have significant health benefits, including reducing heart disease,” said Eryn Balch, executive vice president of the NAOOA.

Additionally, featured guest Maia Hirschbein, who works for West Coast olive oil producer California Olive Ranch, was introduced only as an “olive oil expert.” According to the complaint filed by the NAOOA, “[a]t no point in the show did any person disclose Ms. Hirschbein’s vested interest in denigrating olive oils originating outside of California or her vested interest in promoting California olive oils.” California olive oil special interests have coordinated a national campaign to spread false information about the purity of olive oil available in the U.S. As a result of this effort, overall U.S. consumption of olive oil has stagnated after tripling from 1990-2012, while California production has benefited from double-digit annual growth in recent years.

“Ultimately, too many consumers have been misled into buying a more expensive olive oil or not buying olive oil at all,” said Balch. “Dr. Oz has a unique platform to help millions of people make better decisions about their health. He should use that platform to provide accurate and properly documented information to consumers.”

In 2014, a British medical journal found that fewer than half of the on-air recommendations made by Dr. Oz were supported by scientific evidence. Likewise, he was forced to withdraw his support for a “magic weight loss cure” after he was brought before a U.S. Senate consumer protection panel to be questioned about the scientific evidence behind the supplement. The Federal Trade Commission later sued the producers of the product for false and deceptive advertising. Further, in April 2015, a group of 10 prominent physicians wrote to the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University expressing concerns about Dr. Oz’s faculty appointment because he “has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.”

The lawsuit was filed in Fulton County Superior Court by the NAOOA. Additional named defendants include Entertainment Media Ventures Inc. d/b/a Oz Media and Zoco Productions LLC.