Food Labeling

Good News! A Court Has Ruled This Skim Milk Can Be Called Skim Milk!

A decision so plainly obvious must have roots in intrusive government regulations.


Ocheesee Creamery

Hooray for common sense over really stupid regulatory behavior that is clearly designed to protect entrenched government interests! Skim milk is skim milk!

This calls for a more detailed explanation, obviously. A creamery in Florida, Ocheesee Creamery, has been fighting with state regulators over its skim milk. One might assume that skim milk is simply milk with the cream removed. That's what thinking for yourself gets you. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, in order to actually call your skim milk "skim milk" in the marketplace you are required to add vitamin A to replace what has been removed from the process.

Ocheesee doesn't want to add vitamin A (or anything else) to its skim milk and has been fighting state regulators. The state wanted Ocheesee to label its milk "imitation skim milk," which is absurdly not true. It is actual skim milk but without added vitamin A. It even offered to label the lack of vitamin A, but it wasn't enough for regulators.

Baylen Linnekin, who writes about food law and food policy issues weekly for Reason, had been covering the case and was even retained as an expert to explain in a report that consumers would not be misled by the fact that Ocheesee's pasteurized skim milk was still pasteurized skim milk regardless of whether vitamin A had been added.

Linnekin also noted that the larger dairy industry was more than happy to side with regulators given the opportunity to keep potential competitors with different kinds of choices out of the marketplace. Note how dairy interests are trying to also convince the feds to prohibit products like soy milk or almond milk from calling themselves "milk," though there's no real consumer confusion here that necessitates government intervention.

A federal judge initially sided with the Florida regulators against Ocheesee, but this week a panel of federal judges reversed the decision on appeal, ruling "The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term 'skim milk' was reasonable" and that Ocheesee was not misleading consumers.

It's also yet another win for the freedom-protecting lawyers of the Institute for Justice, who were representing the creamery in court. Read more about the case here.