Jones v. Rath Packing Co.

RESPONDENT:Rath Packing Co.
LOCATION:Supreme Court of Arizona

DOCKET NO.: 75-1053
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 430 US 519 (1977)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1976 / Dec 07, 1976
DECIDED: Mar 29, 1977

Allan J. Goodman
Loyal E. Keir

Facts of the case


Media for Jones v. Rath Packing Co.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 06, 1976 in Jones v. Rath Packing Co.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 29, 1977 in Jones v. Rath Packing Co.

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Number 75-1053, Jones against Rath Packing Company will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on certiorari to United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The question presented is whether the federal law governing net-weight labeling of packages bacon and flour preempts California law in the same subject.

The petitioner, the director, Department of Weights and Measures in Riverside County, California is charges enforcing the state law with the Ninth Circuit held to be preemptive.

California law prohibits sale of packing food commodities if they are contained in lots whose average net weight at the time of sale is less than the weights stated on the label.

In contrast, the federal law governing bacon requires an accurate statement of the quantity and content in terms of weight but allows reasonable variations.

The federal law applicable to flour makes the same allowance for reasonable variations.

Since California uses a statistical averaging procedure to determine the average weight, its law as enforced implicitly allows for variations caused by manufacturing practices.

It makes no allowances however for weight loss from loss of moisture.

The federal Wholesome Meat Act which applies to bacon explicitly preempts state labeling requirement different than those imposed by the Act.

An opinion filed with the clerk today, we conclude that the California law imposed a labeling requirement which is different than the federal requirement because the State makes no allowances for reasonable variations caused by the laws of moisture.

The state law therefore is preempted by the expressed language of the Wholesome Meat Act.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which along with the federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act governs net-weight labeling of flour contains no preemptive language.

And although the Packing Act does preempts state laws that are less stringent than or require information different from the Packaging Act, we conclude that the state law does not fall within that language.

Nevertheless, the California law is preempted because it stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of congress.

Without purposes to ensure, the consumers are able accurately to compare the values of consumer commodities.

Under the federal statutory scheme, this purpose is furthered because all packages contained the same amount of flour solids were packed and sold.

They variant weight only because of gain or loss non-negative moisture content.

Under the state law, however, packages was been taken different amounts of flour solids when packs and sold and consumed by comparisons would be distorted.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was affirmed.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed an opinion concurring into part concerning the bacon and dissenting into flour part.

In this opinion, Mr. Justice Stewart joins.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Marshall.