Dairy farmer sues FDA over skim milk labeling regulations

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - A dairy farmer files a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration. He wants to be able to label pure skim milk as that, but right now he says he can't do that.

Dairy Farmer Randy Sowers and his wife Karen, represented by the Institute for Justice are suing the FDA over how they can label their milk.

"It's not just us," said Sowers. "It's everybody's right to know what they're buying or drinking or eating."

For 15 years, the Sowers have complied with the FDA regulations over milk labeling. It wasn't until recently they decided they needed to take legal action. Wanting to possibly expand into Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has no problem with how they want to label their milk but the FDA does.

"The FDA should get out of the way," said Anya Bidwell, IJ attorney.

Sowers wants the right to call all-natural skim milk, skim milk. The problem comes with how the FDA defines the drink. They say, skim milk can only be labeled as such if synthetic vitamins A and D are added. Sowers says if they want to sell what they believe to be all-natural skim milk without any added vitamins, they have to label the products as 'imitation skim milk' or 'imitation milk product.'

"If they don't comply they could go to jail or face thousands of dollars in fines," said Bidwell. "All because they want to tell the truth."

The lawsuit is alleging a first amendment violation, claiming the government is changing the definition of ordinary words. In this case, what skim milk is.

Sowers says these types of regulations are hurting small business farmers and they're part of the reason the number of dairy farms are declining.

"If you go to a psychiatrist and he puts me on the couch and talks to me," said Sowers. "He's going to say you're stupid you're crazy you gotta be crazy and that's what the kids are seeing. Why do we need to go through all this?"

A similar lawsuit was filed by a Florida dairy farmer over skim milk labelling a few years ago. They ended up winning. However, they sued their department of agriculture and not the FDA.

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