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It's a little less confusing than it sounds.

Mike Pomranz
March 22, 2017

In the battle of skim milk against skim milk, the winner is – quite obviously – skim milk. Though the legal battle over whether the state of Florida should allow a dairy to call its unfortified skim milk “skim milk” is actually far more complicated that you would think it should be. Just that introduction was a mouthful.

This week, a federal appeals court ruled that the Florida Department of Agriculture could not prevent Altha, Florida’s Ocheesee Creamery from calling its skim milk “skim milk” simply because the small dairy refuses to add vitamin A to its naturally-produced skim milk – a step necessary to meet the government department’s standards for the product. This decision is the latest twist in a battle of milk that has been raging for about five years.

The issue began back in 2012 when the Florida Department of Agriculture opposed Ocheesee’s labeling of its “skim milk.” According to the most recent decision, “Consistent with standard practice, the Creamery produces cream by causing it to rise to the top of the milk and then skimming it off. The leftover product is skim milk: milk that has had the fat removed through skimming.” However, since this process also naturally removes nearly all of the vitamin A that is found in whole milk, the state requires dairies to add vitamin A back into their skim milk before selling it. However, “The Creamery prides itself on selling only all-natural, additive-free products, and therefore refuses to replace the lost vitamin A in its skim milk. Its product contains no ingredients other than skim milk.” Still, since this “doesn’t meet the state’s definition for milk, Florida said Ocheesee would need to label its product as either “imitation milk product” or “non-grade ‘A’ milk product” instead.

In 2014, Ocheesee sued the state, saying Florida was violating the company’s First Amendment rights being that these terms would “confuse and mislead its customers by mislabeling its safe, all-natural, pure skim milk.” However, in March 2016, a federal judge ruled in the state’s favor. “[C]onsumers take for granted the nutritional value of skim milk without even knowing that the vitamins have been restored,” judge explained, saying that consumers generally assume that skim milk is the same as whole milk except that it has less fat.

However, in the newest ruling, a federal appeals court has overturned that previous ruling. “The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term ‘skim milk’ was reasonable,” a three-judge panel wrote in its ruling, according to the Associated Press

I know they’ve shifted the dietary recommendations in this country recently, but I think we can all agree that after this article we’ve all had more than our daily allowance of “skim milk.”