Florida court rules in favor of creamery in skim milk labeling case

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

A Florida court ruled in favor of a local creamery, allowing it to continue to label its products as "skim milk." ©iStock/Sakkawokkie
A Florida court ruled in favor of a local creamery, allowing it to continue to label its products as "skim milk." ©iStock/Sakkawokkie

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Ocheesee Creamery of Florida has won a case against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which had tried to argue that the milk producer could not label its product as “skim milk” because it did not meet “Grade A” requirements. 

According to Florida state law, skim milk products must meet Grade A standards, which requires that skim milk must be replaced with Vitamin A that is lost in process of removing fat from the milk.

Ocheesee Creamery produces an additive-free skim milk without added Vitamin A and labels its products as “skim milk.”

As a compromise, the creamery offered to include the lack of vitamin A on its label, but state regulators continued to fight for Ocheesee to abandon the term skim milk.

Misbranding leads to nutritional harm, state says

The state of Florida tried to block sales of the creamery’s skim milk products, arguing that the company was misleading consumers about its nutritional value, calling it “imitation milk,”​ and proposed naming alternatives such as “milk product.”

“Ocheesee wants to label its product ‘skim milk’ even though it undisputedly fails to meet the standard requiring skim milk to be nutritionally the same as milk,”​ the state’s brief said.

“This is a problem because the state’s unrefuted evidence shows that consumers expect skim milk to meet that standard of identity and would be nutritionally harmed and deceived if what they bought was an inferior product like Ocheesee’s.”

Violation of First Amendment rights

Ocheesee said that the move to block the use of the term skim milk violates the first amendment.

"Under the First Amendment, the government has no power to require a company to call a product something that it is not," the brief from Ocheesee Creamery stated. "Just as war is not peace, and freedom is not slavery, pure skim milk is not 'imitation skim milk.' "

The three-judge panel ultimately ruled in favor of Ocheesee Creamery because the state “was unable to show that forbidding the creamery from using the term ‘skim milk’ was reasonable, and not more extensive than necessary to serve its interest.”

“The creamery’s use of the words ‘skim milk’ to describe its skim milk is not inherently misleading.”

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