By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which consumers accused a large dairy cooperative of selling fake Greek yogurt.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti has ruled that the lawsuit's claims are baseless because the Agri-Mark cooperative isn't prohibited from using certain ingredients in its yogurt.
The lawsuit sought certification as a class action, which would have allowed other consumers to join in the litigation, and at least $5 million in compensation.
Plaintiffs in the case claimed Agri-Mark and its subsidiary, Cabot Creamery, used whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate as fillers in its "Cabot Greek" brand.
Making authentic Greek yogurt requires straining the solids to produce a dense, protein-rich product that uses four times as much milk as regular yogurt, the complaint said.
The lawsuit claimed that instead of filtering liquids from its "Cabot Greek," the cooperative adds protein concentrates to thicken the yogurt, which is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Agri-Mark didn't deny using the protein concentrates but said the FDA allowed them as ingredients in products marketed as yogurt.
The judge sided with the cooperative, finding that its interpretation was aligned with the FDA's own understanding of food labeling regulations.
The controversy largely centered on a regulatory definition of yogurt from the early 1980s, which did not include whey protein concentrate or milk protein concentrate as optional ingredients.
However, the FDA hasn't enforced that portion of the regulation for the past 30 years.
While the effect of the FDA's actions is "ambiguous" on its face, statements later made by the agency indicate that it intended to allow the protein concentrates as ingredients, the judge said.
Plaintiffs claimed the FDA's statements were informal and not binding, but the judge said they sufficiently clarify the agency's interpretation of the rules.