Judge dismisses lawsuit against Dr. Oz over fake olive oil claims
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz won a legal victory after a judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging he violated a Georgia food libel law after making claims on his show that some imported olive oil sold in U.S. supermarkets could be fake.
The New Jersey-based North American Olive Oil Association filed the lawsuit against Oz last November in the state court in Fulton County, Georgia, seeking an unspecified amount in damages and payment for the group’s legal fees.
The group accused Oz, who hosts the syndicated “The Dr. Oz Show,” of violating a largely untested food libel law when he stated on a show that aired last May that 80 percent of the extra virgin olive oil imported into the country “isn’t the real deal” and “may even be fake.”
The group also complained that the show failed to disclose that its featured guest and “certified oleologist” Maia Hirschbein is employed by the California Olive Ranch, which competes directly with foreign olive oil makers.
“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,” Dr. Oz said in a statement. He added the lawsuit was just an attempt to “stifle the show” in its pursuit of truth about what is in America’s food.
Oz and his production company sought to have the complaint dismissed, saying the statements he made were protected under an “Anti-SLAPP” law that shields people from having their free speech limited through abuse of the judicial process.
The judge agreed late Thursday with the show’s arguments for dismissal.