A small, all-natural dairy isn’t being deceptive when it calls its skim milk “skim milk,” a federal appeals court has ruled – a victory for a Florida creamery that fought the state’s demand to label the product “imitation” because vitamins aren’t added to it.
The ruling overturns a decision last March when a federal judge sided with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which said the Ocheesee Creamery couldn’t label its skim milk “skim milk” because the state defines the product as skim milk with Vitamin A added.
The state instead said that if the creamery wanted to sell the product, it should label it as “imitation” skim milk.
But in a strange twist with First Amendment implications, the state said Wesselhoeft was misrepresenting her product. After a decade without complaints or confusion, newly enforced regulations required artificially injected additives — something Ocheese Creamery had never done and wasn’t about to start doing.
As a result, the department issued an ultimatum: either stop selling skim milk or label it “imitation milk.”
Those were fighting words.
That didn’t sit well with a dairy whose whole philosophy is not to add ingredients to natural products. So instead of complying, the creamery has dumped thousands of gallons of skim milk down the drain rather than label it as an imitation milk product.
Mary Lou (Ocheesee Creamery) and her customers subscribe to an all-natural philosophy, and she refuses to inject anything into her milk. But that does not matter to DACS, which is trying to censor the creamery from calling the milk what it is—skim milk. Rather than mislead her customers, Mary Lou stopped selling skim milk.
Ordering businesses to confuse their customers is nothing more than flat-out censorship. And when government forces businesses to replace simple and truthful information with confusing gibberish, consumers also suffer.
The First Amendment protects the right of businesses, to tell the truth. The government cannot force Mary Lou to say her skim milk is not skim milk.
That’s why Mary Lou joined the Institute for Justice on November 20, 2014, to file a free-speech lawsuit in federal court.
“The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term ‘skim milk’ was reasonable,” the three-judge, Jacksonville-based panel wrote in its ruling.
The court said the state disregarded far less restrictive and more precise ways of labeling the product, “for example, allowing skim milk to be called what it is and merely requiring a disclosure that it lacks vitamin A.”
The Institute for Justice represented Ocheesee Creamery owner Mary Lou Wesselhoeft in the lawsuit against the state.
“All Mary Lou wants to do is sell skim milk that contains literally one ingredient – pasteurized skim milk – and label it as pasteurized skim milk,” Institute for Justice lawyer Justin Pearson said in a press release.
The creamery, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of the state capital, has offered to put on its label that it doesn’t add vitamins to the product, but the state hasn’t accepted the compromise.
It was selling between 100 and 300 gallons (380 to 1,140 liters) of skim milk a week for $5 a gallon before the dispute. The product made up about 25 percent of its profits.
The dictionary definition of skim milk is simply, milk with the cream removed. But the Department of Agriculture says under state and federal law, skim milk can’t be sold as skim milk unless vitamins in the milk fat are replaced so it has the same nutritional value as whole milk.
The department didn’t immediately return phone calls and an email seeking comment about Ocheesee big win. The win also is for every customer who while shopping depends on the product label to be accurate and truthful. When it says all natural it means 100% natural and at least with Ocheesee Creamery you get what you ordered.
SPY HOLLYWOOD has added Ocheesee Creamery to the list of companies with products you should not live without.
When Ocheesee says it’s products are all natural they are. We salute them and stand in admiration for their dedication to fight back for what is the foundation of every product they sell. Visit the Creamery and don’t forget to order. It is the natural thing to do.