UNITED STATES V. SULLIVAN, 332 U. S. 689 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689 (1948)

United States v. Sullivan

No. 121

Argued December 9, 1947

Decided January 19, 1948

332 U.S. 689


1. It is a violation of § 301(k) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 for a retail druggist who has purchased sulfathiazole tablets from a wholesaler in the same State (who had obtained them by way of an interstate shipment) to remove a dozen of them from a properly labeled bulk container in which they were shipped in interstate commerce and in which they were being held for resale, place them in a pill box labeled "sulfathiazole" but not containing the statutorily required directions for use or warnings of danger, and sell them locally to a retail purchaser. Pp. 332 U. S. 695-697.

(a) The removal of drugs from a container labeled in accordance with the requirements of the Act to one not so labeled is the doing of an act which results in their being "misbranded" within the meaning of § 301(k). P. 332 U. S. 695.

(b) Although a previous intrastate sale had occurred following the interstate shipment, and although the retail sale in question occurred over six months after completion of the shipment in interstate commerce, the sulfathiazole tablets in this case were "held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce" within the meaning of § 301(k). Pp. 332 U. S. 695-696.

(c) The purpose of the Act is to safeguard the consumer by applying its requirements to articles from the moment of their introduction into interstate commerce all the way to the moment of their delivery to the ultimate consumer. Pp. 332 U. S. 696-697.

2. As thus construed, the Act does not exceed the constitutional power of Congress under the Commerce Clause or invade the powers reserved to the states. McDennott v. Wisconsin, 228 U. S. 115. Pp. 332 U. S. 697-698.

3. A restrictive interpretation should not be given a statute merely because Congress has chosen to depart from custom or because

Page 332 U. S. 690

giving effect to the express language employed by Congress might require a court to face a constitutional question. Pp. 332 U. S. 692-694.

4. The scope of the offense which Congress defined in, § 301(k) of the Act is not to be judicially narrowed as applied to drugs by envisioning extreme possible applications of its provisions relating to food and cosmetics, especially in view of the broad discretion given the Administrator to excuse minor violations with a warning and to issue regulations exempting many articles from the labeling requirements when compliance is impractical. Pp. 332 U. S. 694-695.

161 F.2d 629 reversed.

Respondent was convicted in a Federal District Court of violating § 301(k) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. 67 F.Supp. 192. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 161 F.2d 629. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 753. Reversed, p. 332 U. S. 698.

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