United States v. Johnson (1911)

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United States v. Johnson
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Decided May 29, 1911
Full case nameUnited States v. Johnson
Citations221 U.S. 488 (more)
31 S. Ct. 627; 55 L. Ed. 823
The term "misbranded" and the phrase defining what amounts to misbranding in § 8 of the Pure Food and Drug Act are aimed at false statements as to identity of the article, possibly including strength, quality and purity, dealt with in § 7 of the act, and not at statements as to curative effect. A statement on the labels of bottles of medicine that the contents are effective as a cure for cancer, even if misleading, is not covered by the statute.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Edward D. White
Associate Justices
John M. Harlan · Joseph McKenna
Oliver W. Holmes Jr. · William R. Day
Horace H. Lurton · Charles E. Hughes
Willis Van Devanter · Joseph R. Lamar
Case opinions
MajorityHolmes, joined by White, McKenna, Lurton, Van Devanter, Lamar
DissentHughes, joined by Harlan, Day
Laws applied
Pure Food and Drug Act

In United States v. Johnson, 221 U.S. 488 (1911), the United States Supreme Court ruled that the misbranding provisions of the Pure Food and Drug Act[1] of 1906 did not pertain to false curative or therapeutic statements but only false statements as to the identity of the drug.

In 1912, Congress responded with the Sherley Amendments, which addressed the perceived lack of enforcement of fraud related to therapeutic claims;:[2] The Act was amended to prohibit false and fraudulent claims of health benefits but enforcement under the amendment required proof of fraudulent intent, a difficult standard. The misbranding amendment required a curative or therapeutic product to bear a label with a quantity or proportion statement for specified narcotic substances:[2]

any alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, alpha or beta eucaine, chloroform, cannabis indica, chloral hydrate, or acetanilide or any derivative or preparation of any such substances


  1. ^ Pure Food and Drug Act, ch. 3915, 34 Stat. 768 (1906) (current version as amended at 21 U.S.C.S. §§ 301-392 (1985)). The regulation has been amended in part by Pub. L. 101-629, 104 Stat. 4511 (1990).
  2. ^ a b "Pure Food and Drug Act Amendment of 1912 ~ P.L. 62-301" (PDF). 37 Stat. 416 ~ House Bill 11877. Legis★Works. August 23, 1912.

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