United States v. 350 Cartons of Canned Sardines

This case is known in legal circles primarily because of its odd name.

It occurred in 1934 and involved 350 cartons of canned sardines shipped from California to Pennsylvania. The FDA examined some of the cans at its lab in Washington DC and decided that they contained "decomposed animal substance." Therefore, it ordered all 350 cartons to be destroyed.

The sardine company challenged this order in court. It lost the initial case, but won on appeal. Though, by that time, two years later, the sardines may already have been destroyed.

As far as I can tell, the case represented a power struggle between the California inspectors (who had approved the fish for shipment) and the federal ones. The FDA's decision seems to have been somewhat arbitrary. Its inspector decided the fish were decomposed not because of how they smelled or tasted. He said they smelled fine. He concluded they were 'decomposed' simply because they looked slightly pink — which was probably because they had been cooked in tomato sauce.

Read more about the case here.

Case and Comment - Autumn 1934

     Posted By: Alex - Wed Jul 13, 2022
     Category: Odd Names | Lawsuits | 1930s

Sounds like it came straight out of Joseph Heller's world.
Posted by KDP on 07/13/22 at 10:02 AM
Not to be confused with State of Ohio versus 300 Chickens.
Posted by Joe Weckbacher on 07/14/22 at 06:15 AM
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