May 27, 2009, Guelph, ON - On February 17, 2009 a conviction was registered against Jan K. Overweel Limited in the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto for an offence under the Food and Drugs Act. The Honourable Justice Harris ordered the company to pay a $40,000 fine and ordered 27,168 litres of seized oil forfeited to the Crown to be disposed.
The company unlawfully imported a quantity of oil labelled as extra virgin olive oil, that was in fact blended oil, containing approximately 50% sunflower oil. The offence occurred between January 1, 2006 and May 30, 2006. The imported oil did not meet the prescribed standard for olive oil, set out in Food and Drugs Regulation B.09.003[S], which requires among other things, that olive oil “shall be the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree.” The importation was therefore contrary to Section 6(1)(a) of the Food and Drugs Act which states that no person shall import any article intended for sale that is likely to be mistaken for food, unless the article complies with any standard that has been prescribed.
Olive oil is a commodity that can easily be diluted or substituted with cheaper oil. The presence of other oils in olive oil cannot be detected by visual inspection and therefore consumers rely on the labelling. Health conscious consumers purchase extra virgin olive oil for the health benefits they believe are associated with the product. The court stated that the company should have exercised due diligence to ensure that the product met the prescribed standard.
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Marilyn Taylor (English)
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