April 30, 2005
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and Napa Valley Naturals have come to a settlement. The COOC suit was the first in an effort to enforce California SB920 which prohibits an olive oil manufacturer from labeling a bottle of olive oil with the name of a state-approved wine-growing region unless at least 75 percent of the oil in the bottle comes from that locale. The COOC claimed that Napa Valley Naturals olive oil not only was not from Napa Valley, but was found to come from outside the country and was not even entirely olive oil, having been cut with seed oils.
The settlement requires Napa Valley Naturals to correct misleading labels and make monetary compensation to the COOC. Oddly, on the Napa Valley Natural website, the company states that they "prevailed" and states in a letter from company founder Kendall Cook ". . our Napa Valley Naturals labels are not improper or misleading". The letter also implies that the COOC is a special interest group controlled by Napa Valley Natural's largest competitor, Spectrum Organic.
The lawsuit has been on the agenda of several COOC meetings where members, the vast majority of which are very small producers, applauded the effort to stop bogus labels. Legal counsel for the COOC noted that the fact that Naturals say they prevailed in the lawsuit raises questions about their truth in labeling, saying that no one can claim to prevail when they settle.