United States v. Johnson (1911)

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United States v. Johnson
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Full case name United States v. Johnson (1911)
Citations 221 U.S. 488 (more)
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
Case opinions
Majority Holmes, joined by White, McKenna, Lurton, Van Devanter, Lamar
Dissent Hughes, 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; rather, it only prohibited 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.


  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. ^ 37 Stat. 416 (1912)