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“Extra Virgin” and Italian Origin Olive Oil Class Action and Investigation

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Olive Oil

Companies that import, market, and sell three brands of olive oil—Bertolli, Carapelli, and Carbonell—are targets of a recent class action that alleges that they make false claims on their labels, namely that the olive oils are imported from Italy, and that some of them are “extra virgin”.

The classes proposed for this action do not cover all buyers of olive oil throughout the US, so others may still be able to join in with this case.

If you have purchased any of the products on the list below, outside the state of California, believing that they are imported from Italy and that those labeled “extra virgin” are in fact of that quality, please fill out the form on this page and let us know what your experiences have been.

  • Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • Bertolli Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • Bertolli Classico Olive Oil;
  • Bertolli Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil;
  • Carapelli Il Numerato Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • Carapelli Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • Carapelli Extra Light in Taste Olive Oil; and
  • Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Products which are labeled “Organic,” “Robusto,” “Gentile,” or “Fragranto” are not part of this lawsuit.

The first problem, the complaint alleges, is that the front of the products claim they are “Imported from Italy,” which gives consumers the impression that the olives were grown and pressed in that country.

However, the complaint says, on the back of the bottle, in much smaller letters, is a note such as this: “Product contains select high quality [olive oils] from the countries indicated by the letters below. I=Italy, GR=Greece, E=Spain, TU=Tunisia, MA=Morocco, CL=Chile, AG=Argentina, AU=Australia.” Following that is a dot matrix print of one or more country codes, with no information as to what proportion of the oil is from which country. In fact, the complaint alleges, the oil is imported from many countries and only bottled or packaged in Italy.

The second problem, according to the complaint, are the claims of several of the products to contain “extra virgin” oil, a high grade of olive oil. The complaint claims that because the olive oil is packed in clear bottles rather than dark ones and transported and stored without any special protective measures, light and heat are likely to degrade the olive oil before it reaches the consumer.

According to the complaint, several bottles of the “extra virgin” products were tested by an evaluation panel and an independent laboratory accredited by the International Olive Council (IOC), which governs 95% of international olive oil production. They determined that none of the bottles tested contained oil that qualified as “extra virgin” under the standards of the IOC, the USDA, or the state of California.

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