The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) in 2012 ordered the Ocheesee Creamery to stop labeling its product as “skim milk” – and ordered her to inject it with artificial vitamin A. She filed suit again the state last month.
“It just does not make any sense,” dairy owner Mary Lou Wesselhoeft told The Tallahassee Democrat. “We just want to be able to call our skim milk ‘skim milk,’ and we don’t want to add anything to it.”
The creamery sold pasteurized skim milk for several years with no problem until October 2012. That’s when a routine inspection by DACS employees turned into an absurd nightmare.
“On October 9, 2012, during a routine inspection by DACS agents of the Creamery, DACS agents informed Creamery owner Mary Lou Wesselhoeft that the Creamery could no longer sell pasteurized skim milk labeled as ‘pasteurized skim milk’ unless the Creamery injected a vitamin A additive into the otherwise all-natural, pasteurized skim milk,” the complaint in the Creamery’s lawsuit states.
The agents issued the creamery a “stop sale order” because Florida state law requires that skim milk have the same vitamin content as regular milk. Wesselhoeft refuses to inject the vitamin into her milk because it would violate her philosophy of making and selling all-natural foods.
The state would allow her to sell the milk if she labeled it “Non-Grade ‘A’ Milk Product, Natural Milk Vitamins Removed.” Wesselhoeft refuses to do that because she believes it would mislead her customers.
Dairy Throws Milk Away Because of State Order
Because of the state’s action Wesselhoeft and her employees have been throwing away large amounts of milk left after the cream is removed, resulting in a large loss of revenue, The Democrat reported. The skim milk is a byproduct of the process they use to make natural cream which is sold through natural foods stores.
The loss of revenue from the skim milk portion of their business has forced the Wesselhoefts to raise the prices for their other milk products, the newspaper said.
The Ocheesee Creamery and the Institute for Justice filed a federal lawsuit against DACS to overturn the law. The suit contends that the law violates the Wesselhoefts’ right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“For years, Plaintiff Ocheesee Creamery, LLC (the ‘Creamery’) sold pasteurized skim milk—which it labeled, clearly and truthfully, as ‘pasteurized skim milk’—to its customers,” the plaintiff’s complaint states. “The milk contained exactly one ingredient: skim milk. Beginning in 2012, however, the State of Florida ordered the Creamery to either: (1) inject an artificial additive into the skim milk; or (2) re-label the skim milk to comply with Florida’s labeling requirements for ‘imitation milk product.’”
Dairy Complied with State Law
The brief also notes that the Wesselhoefts went out of their way to comply with state regulations and make their milk safe.
“The Creamery’s pasteurized skim milk was safe to drink and was sold by the Creamery for years with the knowledge of DACS agents,” the complaint states. “Like all Florida creameries, the Creamery is routinely inspected by DACS agents.
“No customer has indicated that they were ever confused, deceived or misled by the Creamery labeling its pasteurized skim milk as ‘pasteurized skim milk,’” the complaint states. “[The] Creamery never attempted to hide the fact that its pasteurized skim milk had less vitamin A than whole milk. To the contrary, some of the Creamery’s customers purchased the Creamery’s skim milk specifically because no vitamin A was added.”
“The DACS agents admitted that the pasteurized skim milk was perfectly safe to drink but could still only be sold as ‘pasteurized skim milk’ if vitamin A were added,” the complaint noted.
Wesselhoeft tried to avoid a lawsuit by proposing alternative labels such as “PASTEURIZED SKIM MILK NO VITAMIN A ADDED.” The state refused to allow those labels.
The Wesselhoefts are not seeking any financial damages.
Do you believe the creamery should be allowed to sell its skim milk as-is, with no state-mandated label? Share your thoughts in the section below: