249 U.S. 427 (1919), 119, Corn Products Refining Company v. Eddy

Docket Nº:No. 119
Citation:249 U.S. 427, 39 S.Ct. 325, 63 L.Ed. 689
Party Name:Corn Products Refining Company v. Eddy
Case Date:April 14, 1919
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 427

249 U.S. 427 (1919)

39 S.Ct. 325, 63 L.Ed. 689

Corn Products Refining Company



No. 119

United States Supreme Court

April 14, 1919

Argued January 14, 1919




A state regulation respecting the labeling of syrup compounds which does not discriminate against the manufacturer or his product or against syrups as a class held not objectionable under the equal protection clause. P. 431.

The right of a manufacturer to maintain secrecy as to his compounds and processes is subject to the right of the state, in the exercise of its police power, to require that the nature of the product be fairly set forth. P. 432. Held that a state regulation, requiring manufacturers of proprietary compound syrups to state definitely in conspicuous letters on the principal label the percentage of each ingredient is consistent with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.

It is the effect of a regulation as put in force by the state that determines whether it directly burdens interstate commerce, and not its characterization or its construction by the state court. Id.

The proviso in § 8 of the Federal Pure Food Act that nothing in the act shall be construed as requiring proprietors or manufacturers of proprietary foods which contain no unwholesome added ingredient

Page 128

to disclose their trade formulas except insofar as the provisions of the act may require to secure freedom from adulteration or misbranding merely relates to the interpretation of the requirements of that act, and does not enlarge its purview or establish a rule as to matters which lie outside its prohibitions. P. 439.

A regulation adopted by a state board of health and in effect upheld by the state court as authorized by the state pure food law must be regarded as state legislation in ascertaining its relation to the federal food law. P. 437.

Neither under the commerce clause directly nor through the Federal Pure Food Law, as amended, is a state forbidden to require that proprietary foods, imported into the state and sold in the original packages, shall bear labels stating the names and percentages of the ingredients composing them. P. 433. Savage v. Jones, 225 U.S. 501, followed; McDermott v. Wisconsin, 228 U.S. 115, distinguished.

99 Kan. 63 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

PITNEY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Plaintiff in error (plaintiff in the original action) is a corporation which manufactures in the State of Illinois a proprietary table syrup composed of 85 percent corn syrup or glucose, 10 percent molasses, and 5 percent sorghum, and sells it under the name of "Mary Jane" in cans labeled as follows:

5 Pounds Net Weight.

Mary Jane.

Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.

Page 429

Mary Jane is guaranteed by Corn Products Refining Co. to comply with the Food and Drugs Act, June 30, 1906. Registered under serial number 2317.

Mary Jane. A Table Syrup Prepared from Corn Syrup, Molasses, and Pure Country Sorghum. Contains Sulphur Dioxide.

M'f'd by Corn Products Refining Co.

General Offices -- New York, U.S.A.

Prior to the beginning of the action, plaintiff had agents and representatives employed in soliciting orders for this syrup from wholesale merchants in the State of Kansas, the orders being filled by shipping the required quantity of the syrup in interstate commerce in the original sealed cans with original labels attached. Defendants, who are the members of the State Board of Health of Kansas, deeming "Mary Jane" to be misbranded in several particulars within the meaning of the Food and Drugs Law of that state (c. 266, Sess.Laws, Kan.1907, as amended by c. 184, Laws 1909, embodied in c. 35, Gen.Stat.Kan.1909; c. 32, Gen.Stat.Kan.1915), and regulations adopted by the board under authority of that law, notified plaintiff's agents and representatives and other persons selling and dealing in "Mary Jane" syrup that, unless plaintiff complied with Regulation 6 of the State Board by attaching in a conspicuous place on the outside of each can sold or offered for sale within the state a label with the word "compound" printed upon it, and stating definitely the percentage of each ingredient of which the syrup was composed, they would be arrested and prosecuted. Similar warnings were communicated to wholesale and retail dealers who were and long had been selling this syrup in Kansas under the original brand and label.

Plaintiff brought an equitable action against the members of the board of health in one of the district courts of the state setting up the pertinent facts alleging that defendants were acting under the authority of the state

Page 430

law and certain regulations [39 S.Ct. 327] adopted by them pursuant to it, and, among others, Regulation 6, requiring that, in the case of syrups, the principal label should state definitely the percentage of each ingredient, in the case of compounds, mixtures, imitations, or blends, plaintiff further averring that the state law and the regulations referred to, particularly Regulation 6, were void because in conflict with the interstate commerce clause (Art. I, § 8) of the Constitution of the United States and the act of Congress of June 30, 1906, c. 3915, 34 Stat. 768, and also in conflict with the provisions of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that defendants were interfering with plaintiff's interstate commerce and with its lawful business in the State of Kansas, thereby threatening plaintiff with great and irreparable damage, and praying for an injunction.

Their general demurrer having been overruled, defendants answered and the case came on for hearing, with the result that the district court made a finding "that all of the allegations of plaintiff's petition are true," and adjudged that there should be a perpetual injunction restraining defendants from interfering with the sale of "Mary Jane" in the State of Kansas upon the ground...

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