by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
At least, not according to Justin Pearson, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice who just filed a 1st Amendment claim against the Food and Drug Administration. Here’s an excerpt from IJ’s press release describing the lawsuit:
For centuries, the general understanding of skim milk has been milk with the cream skimmed off. But in a regulation only Kafka could have written, the FDA has decided that skim milk can only be called “skim milk” if farmers add synthetic vitamins that consumers can naturally get from plenty of other drinks or foods. If farmers like Randy Sowers and his wife Karen of South Mountain Creamery 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 FDA is creating confusion where there was none whatsoever [said Pearson]. People know what skim milk means, but they have no idea what ‘imitation milk product’ means. Pure, all-natural skim milk is not an ‘imitation’ of anything.”
The creamery produces delicious milk, yogurt and cheese, among other tasty foods that the family-run business has been selling for years to eager customers in Maryland. Last fall, Randy contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to find out whether he could sell all-natural skim milk without added chemicals as “skim milk” in Pennsylvania. State officials have no objection to the commonsense use of the term, “skim milk,” but because Randy wants to sell in multiple states, they are forced to follow federal regulations. That means Randy’s plan is a no-go, thanks to the FDA. So he’s taking his fight to court.
“I just want to sell the purest, most natural skim milk possible without being forced to confuse my customers,” Randy said of the lawsuit.” …
Milk contains healthy vitamins and minerals that are naturally stored in either water or fat. Because skim milk is made by removing the fat from whole milk, skim milk has more water-soluble nutrients like calcium but lacks fat-soluble vitamins A and D. The FDA requires dairy farmers to add synthetic versions of those lost vitamins to skim milk in order to label skim milk as “skim milk.” Without the fat of whole milk, the vitamins break down in skim milk before reaching consumers. In other words, the FDA manages to confuse American milk drinkers without providing any health benefits.
“The federal government should be in the business of protecting public health and safety, not forcing hardworking entrepreneurs to lie about their products,” said IJ attorney Anya Bidwell. “Pasteurized, all-natural skim is safe to drink and legal to sell. It’s time for the FDA to stop fighting common sense and allow farmers to market pure skim milk honestly to their customers.”