Pompeian Inc. Charged with Making Unsubstantiated
Health Claims for Its Olive Oil
Consent Agreement to Settle Complaint
FTC News Release
October 28, 1991
Alleging unsubstantiated advertising claims about olive oil's superiority to vegetable oil, the Federal Trade Commission today issued a complaint against Pompeian, Inc., a Baltimore, Maryland olive oil marketer. Under the terms of a consent agreement, announced today for public comment to settle the charges, Pompeian would be prohibited from making such unsubstantiated claims in future advertising.
Pompeian Inc. sells three varieties of olive oil: Pompeian 100% Pure Olive Oil; Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil; and Pompeian Extra Light Olive Oil. Industry sources indicate that Pompeian is the third-largest olive oil marketer in the US
The Pompeian advertisements challenged by the FTC's complaint appeared on television and in magazines across the country. According to the complaint, the ads represented that:
- eating vegetable oil does not lower cholesterol;
- eating olive oil lowers cholesterol more than vegetable oil does; and
- olive oil is healthier for the heart than all vegetable oils.
The complaint charges that Pompeian made these claims without possessing and relying upon a reasonable basis for making them. The FTC noted that using the term "vegetable oil" in the complaint mirrors the wording used by Pompeian in the advertisements and should not be read to suggest anything about vegetable oil and cholesterol. In reality, "vegetable oil" is not a homogenous commodity. Different vegetable oils contain monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, and components in varying amounts. The complaint says the firm lacks substantiation for its claims about vegetable oil in general and in comparison to olive oil.
The proposed consent agreement would prohibit Pompeian from making the claims alleged in the complaint unless they are substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The agreement also prohibits unsubstantiated claims that any edible oil has the relative or absolute ability to cause or contribute to any health benefit, or has a favorable impact on any physiologic function or risk factor for disease.
- FTC File No. 912-3002. FTC Docket No. C-3402.
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