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decided: April 7, 1913.




Author: Day

[ 228 U.S. Page 124]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiffs in error, George McDermott and T. H. Grady, were severally convicted in the Circuit Court of Dane County, in the State of Wisconsin, upon complaints made against them by an Assistant Dairy and Food

[ 228 U.S. Page 125]

     Commissioner of that State for the violation of a statute of Wisconsin relating to the sale of certain articles and for the protection of the public health. The convictions were affirmed by the decision of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. 143 Wisconsin, 18.

The complaint against McDermott charged that on March 2, 1908, at Oregon, in Dane County, he "did unlawfully have in his possession with intent to sell, and did offer and expose for sale and did sell, a certain article, product, compound and mixture composed of more than seventy-five per cent. glucose and less than twenty-five per cent. of cane syrup, said cane syrup being then and there mixed with said glucose, and that the can containing said compound and mixture was then and there unlawfully branded and labeled 'Karo Corn Syrup' and was then and there further unlawfully branded and labeled '10% Cane Syrup, 90% Corn Syrup,' contrary to the statute in such case made and provided." As to Grady, the complaint was similar to that against McDermott except that the label designated the mixture as "Karo Corn Syrup with Cane Flavor" and added "Corn Syrup, 85%." The statute of Wisconsin for the violation of which plaintiffs in error were convicted is found in Laws of Wisconsin for 1907, ยง 4601 at page 646, being chapter 557, and the pertinent parts of it are as follows:

"Section 1. . . . No person, . . . by himself . . . or agent . . . shall sell, offer or expose for sale or have in his possession with intent to sell any syrup, maple syrup, sugar-cane syrup, sugar syrup, refiners' syrup, sorghum syrup or molasses, mixed with glucose, unless the barrel, casek, keg, can, pail or other original container, containing the same be distinctly branded or labeled so as to plainly show the true name of each and all of the ingredients composing such mixture, as follows:

[ 228 U.S. Page 126]

     "Third. In case such mixture shall contain glucose in a proportion exceeding 75 per cent. by weight, it shall be labeled and sold as 'Glucose flavored with Maple Syrup,' 'Glucose flavored with Sugar-cane Syrup,' . . . 'Glucose flavored with Refiners' Syrup' . . . as the case may be. The labels . . . shall bear the name and address of the manufacturer or dealer. . . . In all mixtures in which glucose is used in the proportion of more than 75 per cent. by weight, the name of the syrup or molasses which is mixed with the glucose for flavoring purposes and the words showing that said syrup or molasses is used as a flavoring, as provided in this section, shall be printed on the label of each container of such mixture. . . . The mixtures or syrups designated in this section shall have no other designation or brand than herein required that represents or is the name of any article which contains a saccharine substance; . . . nor shall any of the aforesaid glucose, syrups, molasses or mixtures contain any substance injurious to health, nor any other article or substance otherwise prohibited by law in articles of food."

The facts are that the plaintiffs in error were retail merchants in Oregon, Dane County, Wisconsin; that before the filing of the complaints against them each had bought for himself for resale as such merchant from wholesale grocers in Chicago and had received by rail from that city twelve half gallon tin cans or pails of the articles designated in the complaints, each shipment being made in wooden boxes containing the cans, and that when the goods were received at their stores the respective plaintiffs in error took the cans from the boxes, placed them on the shelves for sale at retail, and destroyed the boxes in which the goods were shipped to them, as was customary in such cases. From their nature, the articles thus canned and offered to be sold, instead of being labeled as they were, if labeled in accordance with

[ 228 U.S. Page 127]

     the state law, would have been branded with the words "Glucose flavored with Refiner's Syrup," and, as the statute provides that the mixtures or syrups offered for sale shall have upon them no designation or brand which represents or contains the name of a saccharine substance other than that required by the state law, the labels upon the cans must be removed, if the state authority is recognized.

Plaintiffs in error contend that the cans were labeled in accordance with the Food and Drugs Act passed by Congress, June 30, 1906, 34 Stat. 768, c. 3915, and that that fact is evidenced by the decision of the Secretaries of the Treasury, Agriculture and Commerce and Labor made under the claimed authority of that act, which is as follows:

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 13, 1908.

"We have each given careful consideration to the labeling, under the Pure Food Law, of the thick, viscous syrup obtained by the incomplete hydrolysis of the starch of corn, and composed essentially of dextrose, maltose and dextrin. In our opinion it is lawful to label this syrup as corn syrup, and if to the corn syrup there is added a small percentage of refiner's syrup, a product ...

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