Dairy press circles are abuzz this week after Randy and Karen Sowers, owners of South Mountain Creamery in Maryland, sued the Food and Drug Administration for violating their first amendment rights.
The lawsuit filed by the Sowers and the Institute for Justice last week claims the FDA violated the constitution by refusing to allow the natural skim milk produced by South Mountain Creamery to be called ‘skim milk’ on its packaging.
“Skim milk can only be called ‘skim milk’ if farmers add synthetic vitamins that consumers can naturally get from plenty of other drinks and foods,” the Institute for Justice, a libertarian non-profit law firm, wrote in a statement. “If farmers like Randy Sowers and his wife Karen want to sell pasteurized, all-natural skim milk without added chemicals, the federal government forces them to lie to customers by labelling it as ‘imitation skim milk’ or ‘imitation milk product.’”
The vitamins and minerals in milk are contained in either the water or fat in the milk, but skim milk is made by removing the fat from whole milk. This means that skim milk is rich in water-soluble nutrients like calcium, but doesn’t have the nutrients found in milk fat, such as vitamin A and vitamin D. Since the FDA defines milk based on its nutritional contents, in order for skim milk to qualify as ‘real’ as opposed to ‘imitation,’ it must have synthetic versions of these vitamins added back in after the fat is removed.
But get this: since vitamins A and D are fat soluble, this means that the body needs fat to really derive any benefit from them. Delivering synthetic versions of these vitamins in a fat-free drink like skim milk means the consumer gets very little health benefits from them, according to Alissa Hamilton’s Got Milked? The Great Dairy Deception and Why You’ll Thrive Without Milk.
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The Sowers aren’t seeking any money from the lawsuit, but only want the right to truthfully label their milk products. One alternative label they have proposed would read: “Pure pasteurized skim milk, no vitamins added or replaced, the only ingredient is skim milk.”
A similar lawsuit about the language of skim milk was filed last year against the state of Florida. The judge ruled in favor of the dairy and claimed that the state’s restrictions on packaging violated the dairy owners’ first amendment rights. Yet because the Sower’s milk is being shipped across state lines, they had to take up the issue with the FDA, rather than the state agricultural agency.
“I just want to sell the purest, most natural skim milk possible without being forced to confuse my customers,” Randy Sowers said in a statement. “I’m ready to fight back against the federal government again for my right to honestly market my milk.”