Fla. creamery takes state to court over 'imitation milk' -- and wins

- In Florida, some all-natural milk must be called "imitation" unless the dairy producers inject it with additives.

Your eyes do not deceive you, but a small family dairy farm in Florida's panhandle may have just changed that. Ocheesee Creamery in the small town of Altha took on the state in a David vs. Goliath-type of legal battle -- and won.

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft and her son, Pierre Wesselhoeft have been producing pure, all-natural skim milk at Ocheesee Creamery for years. They milk their cows, then make butter and ice cream by skimming the cream off the milk then pouring the milk (with the cream skimmed off) into glass bottles. They slap on a label that reads "skim milk" and it's ready for sale.  

But a state inspector told them they can't call it skim milk, even though that's exactly what it is according to dictionary definitions.

READ: Why does Florida call fresh skim milk 'imitation milk'?

"If you look it up in the dictionary, it is milk with the cream removed… but they want us to call this 'imitation milk,'" said Mary Lou. "There's no description for that. It's just insanity"

"All we want to say was 'skim milk - no vitamins added' because that's what it was," said Pierre.

But the inspector said the state of Florida defines fresh milk with the cream removed as "imitation milk" if it does not contain added vitamin A.

The Wesselhoefts say they had been selling their all-natural skim milk for years until Adam Putnam -- who just announced he's running for governor -- took over as the state's commissioner of agriculture.

"He just told me he was a regulator [and] that his hands were tied," said Mary Lou. "I felt it was the principle of being able to tell your customers the truth and that's all we ever asked to do."

RELATED: Court rules against state on skim milk labeling

Commissioner of Agriculture Putnam said he wants this to be resolved.

"What we were doing is enforcing the U.S. food code and we are in negotiations with them," said Putnam. "I have every confidence that we are going to successfully resolve that and allow that small business to stay in business and continue providing a product consumers want."

Ocheesee Creamery took the state to court and prevailed in an appellate ruling. The court ruled the Wesselhoefts can start selling their skim milk again. Mary Lou says that ruling could spell cheaper and more natural food across the state.

They have not yet resumed sales of skim milk because they are waiting to see if the state will file an appeal.   

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