A Florida creamery, operating with an all natural philosophy, boasted of selling some of the most delicious and natural skim milk in the state. Their secret was simple in that they skimmed the cream off of whole milk to sell as cream and the rest was sold as skim milk. However, in doing so they failed to comply with Florida's state law that requires the artificial injection of vitamins back into the skim milk to make it nutritionally equivalent to whole milk. As a result, the Florida Department of Agriculture took the creamery to court, maintaining that the creamery could not legally label their skim milk as milk and must call it imitation skim milk.
Federal court Judge Robert Hinkle has now ruled in favor of the state and against the creamery, holding that they cannot label their all natural skim milk as milk. Although Judge Hinkle agreed that the creamery's skim milk was within the denotation of skim milk, he found that the state had the right to regulate standards for milk. Further that to find otherwise, could ignite challenges to both state and federal laws upon which our food labeling system is based.
Although the all natural skim milk sold by the creamery constitutes approximately 25% of their business, they refuse to label it as imitation. A representative from the creamery stated that, “Our skim milk was pure skim milk, and nobody was ever confused when we called it skim milk. I refuse to lie to my customers, so I have stopped selling skim milk until I am allowed to tell the truth again.” Instead they have chosen to appeal the decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Although at first impression the court's decision seems to lack a reasonable basis, we must remember that in general the role of the court is to interpret the laws and it is the role of the legislators to make the laws. This is all part of the balance of powers which is crucial to the functionality of our system. The current applicable Florida law, which seems to have more to do with political favor than milk, requires the artificial injection of vitamins back into skim milk in order to legally label it as milk. Therefore, it would appear that the creamery's likelihood of success upon appeal is limited. The true remedy for the creamery, may lie with the elected state legislators who enacted and/or continue to support such a consumer and small business unfriendly law.
State officials that pander to big business and contradict their oath to the very people that elected them, should be voted against to insure that they are limited to one term. Representation in our country that is by the people and for the people as set forth by our founding fathers, has perhaps never been more lacking and more needed than it is today.
Long Island lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.