Food Trends

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Dr. Oz over 'fake' olive oil comments

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The alleged anti-oil charges against Dr. Oz aren’t going to stick.

On Thursday, a judge in Fulton County, Ga., dismissed a libel lawsuit brought against TV-personality Dr. Mehmet Oz over statements he made regarding fraudulent olive oil in the U.S. market.

Last November, the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) brought charges against the daytime talk show host after he claimed that up to 80 percent of the extra virgin olive oil sold in U.S. supermarkets “isn’t the real deal” and “may even be fake” during an episode of the “The Dr. Oz Show” that aired in May 2016. The association sought an unspecified amount in damages, as well as the reimbursement of their legal fees.

APP WILL TELL YOU IF YOUR OLIVE OIL IS REALLY FROM ITALY

They NAOOA, a trade group that also does business throughout the state of Georgia, also took umbrage with the episode’s guest, Maia Hirschbein, Reuters reports. They claim that Hirschbein, who was introduced as a “certified oleologist,” never made it clear that she was an employee of the California Olive Ranch, which, they argue, has an interest in limiting the import of foreign olive oil.

However, Oz and the show’s production companies, Entertainment Media Ventures Inc. and ZoCo Productions LLC, argued that his statements should be protected under an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation), and that the NAOOA was just trying to stifle his right to free speech.

Judge Alford Dempsey, Jr. ultimately decided that Oz was on the right side of the law.

"The court has grave concerns that the motivation for the present action falls squarely within the purpose of the anti-SLAPP statute as an attempt to chill speech," Dempsey wrote.

Dempsey decided that “no statements made of any kind on the show that olive oil is unsafe for human consumption." He added that the NAOOA did not have a “scintilla of evidence” to support their claims or that they lost any money because of Oz’s statements. 

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Both the NAOOA and Oz have responded since Dempsey’s verdict was handed down Thursday.

"We value the confidence our viewers place in us every day, including this program which fairly reported on the mislabeling of extra-virgin olive oil," stated Dr. Oz.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the NAOOA believes that “nothing in the decision lends credence to the unsubstantiated attacks on olive oil made on the Dr. Oz segment and we are evaluating our options for appeal.”

The NAOOA originally filed its lawsuit in Ga., one of 13 U.S. states with food libel laws that make it easier for food producers and manufacturers to sue in response to critical statements about their products.