A putative class alleging that the extra virgin olive oil sold in the United States does not meet the “extra virgin” standard has filed consumer fraud claims against several of the largest importers of the product in a state court in Florida. Nachio v. Am. Rice, Inc., No. 10-33154 (Cir. Ct., 17th Jud. Cir., Broward County, Fla., filed August 13, 2010). Like the plaintiffs in a class action filed in California, named plaintiff Joseph Nachio refers to the June 2010 extra virgin olive oil study conducted by University of California at Davis’s Olive Oil Center researchers who concluded that the defendants’ products are not “extra virgin” olive oil. Additional information about that litigation appears in Issue 359 of this Update.
Nachio contends that the time-sensitive process required to produce extra virgin olive oil makes it impossible for defendants to sell the quantities they do, and that they sell true extra virgin olive oil solely in countries where “consumers have a longer history of consuming extra virgin olive oil and have a taste pallet that commands only this true high quality product.” Alleging that the products, which are actually “rancid or adulterated olive oil,” are sold at a premium price, the plaintiff seeks to “recover the benefit of the bargain for himself and the class.” He claims that the defendants “do not respect the American olive oil taste pallet as a whole and bank on the fact that Americans cannot discern between rancid or adulterated olive oil and true extra virgin olive oil.”
The complaint lists a number of actions taken by government authorities around the world since 1993 after certain olive oils were found to be fake, including a Food and Drug Administration recall of olive oils found to be canola oil, and arrests and product confiscation in Italy after the discovery of a scheme to re-label oil from other countries as Italian. Seeking certification of a statewide class, the plaintiff alleges violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and breach of express warranty. The complaint alleges individual damages less than $75,000 and contends that the action is not removable to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act. The plaintiff seeks restitution, disgorgement, injunctive and declaratory relief, a corrective advertising campaign, attorney’s fees, and costs.