The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) has filed a lawsuit against television talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz after he said on his popular program that the majority of extra virgin olive oil sold in U.S. supermarkets may be "fake."
The legal moves comes after Oz said in a May 12, 2016, episode of the "The Doctor Oz Show" that "80 percent of the extra virgin olive oil that you buy everyday in your supermarket isn't the real deal, it may even be fake."
The TV host added that he was "curious if this was really true," so he then had a "certified olive oil expert" appear on the show for a blind taste and smell test of what he said were five popular Italian extra virgin olive oils available for sale in the U.S. The expert said on the show that only one out of the five oils was authentic extra virgin olive oil.
The American trade group of olive oil marketers, packagers, importers and producers argued in court documents filed on Tuesday that Oz and others "made a series of false statements regarding the quality and purity of olive oil sold in supermarkets in the United States." The group said in its filings that it monitors the olive oil market, and conducts independent tests on olive oils taken directly from store shelves. Its tests indicated that around 95 percent of the tested samples "meet or exceed IOC quality and purity standards." The group also argued that the "expert" on the show had a bias because she works for the California Olive Ranch, which the group says has an interest in promoting California olive oils instead of imported olive oils.
In court documents, NAOOA said that viewers of this episode "tuned into the program to receive information about health and well-being," and relied on Oz's advice "when making dietary choices, like selecting which olive oil to purchase." The group argued that Dr. Oz's statements caused harm to its business and reputation. The group is seeking damages and legal fees.
"Ultimately, too many consumers have been misled into buying a more expensive olive oil or not buying olive oil at all. Dr. Oz has a unique platform to help millions of people make better decisions about their health," NAOOA told "Good Morning America," in a statement. "He should use that platform to provide accurate and properly documented information to consumers."
"The Dr. Oz Show" told "GMA" that it plans to defend its story.
"'The Dr. Oz Show' plans to aggressively defend the story which was covered by numerous other reputable news organizations including CBS News’ '60 Minutes,' The New York Times and Time magazine. We intend to refute the allegations, some of which stem from the discredited and constitutionally questionable veggie libel statute,” the show said in a statement.