Image source: Institute for Justice
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In what some are calling a victory for common sense and liberty, a U.S. federal appeals court Monday handed a creamery a major victory by ruling that all-natural skim milk can be labeled “skim milk” even if it is not injected with state-mandated Vitamin A.
The unanimous 3-0 decision overturned a decision from earlier this year by a federal judge.
At the heart of the controversy is Ocheesee Creamery, which has an all-natural philosophy and clams that injecting the vitamin would make its skim milk anything but all-natural. The state had ordered the creamery to label the skim milk “imitation skim milk” if it didn’t have Vitamin A.
The creamery sells cream, skimmed from whole milk, to families and coffee shops; skim milk is the byproduct. The creamery currently dumps about 400 gallons of skim milk each day because it refuses to label its product “imitation.”
The creamery’s use of “skim milk” to describe its product “is not inherently misleading,” the judges ruled.
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“As the Creamery’s label does not concern unlawful activity and is not inherently misleading, the Creamery’s commercial speech merits First Amendment protection,” read the ruling, which vacated the lower court’s decision.
The judges remanded the case to the lower court.
“This decision is a total vindication for Ocheesee Creamery and a complete rejection of the Florida Department of Agriculture’s suppression of speech,” said Justin Pearson, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which is representing the creamery. “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.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture had ruled the milk could be labeled “skim milk” only if it was injected with artificial Vitamin A.
“I simply want to tell the truth about what is in the products I sell, and I did not like that the government wanted me to lie,” Mary Lou Wesselhoeft said. “Today’s good news is proof that it is important to stand up for your rights when the government wants you to do something that is wrong.”
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