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Food, Drug, And Cosmetic Act 52 Stat. 1040 (1938)

FOOD, DRUG, AND COSMETIC ACT 52 Stat. 1040 (1938)

Grounded on the commerce clause, this act was a sweeping revision of the pure food and drug act of 1906. It passed Congress after a five-year struggle and then only because of an uproar caused by nearly one hundred deaths from a new drug. Despite extensive compromise, this act substantially strengthened earlier legislation, affording greater consumer protection. Different chapters of the law dealt at length with food, drugs, and cosmetics, expanding coverage and increasing penalties. The act prohibited shipment in interstate commerce of adulterated or misbranded products and broadened the definition of these terms. Indicative of the act's thrust, one section authorized the secretary of agriculture to establish standards of quality for foods to "promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers." Misbranding received special attention: imitations were to be clearly marked, flavoring or coloring additives noted, and the use of habit-forming ingredients was to be indicated on the label. Drugs had to meet federal formulations or disclose the differences. New drugs would have to pass rigorous tests. Congress partly remedied one of the act's weaknesses, a less stringent control over false advertising, in the Wheeler-Lea Act of the same year. The Supreme Court sustained the act in united states v. sullivan (1947).

David Gordon

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