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Federal Trade Commission v. National Commission on Egg Nutrition

decided: May 15, 1975.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - No. 74 C 2185 James B. Parsons, Judge.

Fairchild, Chief Judge, Cummings and Tone, Circuit Judges. Fairchild, Chief Judge, concurring.

Author: Tone

TONE, Circuit Judge.

The National Commission on Egg Nutrition (NCEN), a private, not-for-profit corporation composed of representatives of various associations of egg producers throughout the United States, has caused to be published and broadcast statements, in the form of paid advertisements, representing in substance that there is no scientific evidence that eating eggs increases the risk of heart disease or a heart attack. The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against NCEN alleging that these statements were false and in violation of sections 5 and 12 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 45 and 52, and sought from the District Court a temporary injunction under section 13(a) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 53(a), restraining the continuation of the advertising pending completion of the administrative proceeding. Before the District Court, the Commission offered substantial evidence that there is a medical controversy about the subject and considerable expert opinion based on experimental evidence showing a correlation, and possibly a causal connection, between high levels of dietary cholesterol resulting from eating eggs and other foods with a high cholesterol content and increased risk of heart disease. The District Court held that it had jurisdiction notwithstanding NCEN's claim that it was not subject to the Act, but denied the application on the ground that the equitable conditions required for issuance of an injunction under section 13(a) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 53(a), had not been met. We reverse that court's order and direct that an injunction be entered.


We agree with the District Court that the Commission had jurisdiction over NCEN and the statements in question. Although NCEN is a non-profit corporation, it was formed to promote "the general interests of the egg industry," according to its articles of incorporation and bylaws. Thus, it comes within the scope of section 4 of the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 44, which defines "corporation" as "any company . . . which is organized to carry on business for its own profit or that of its members . . . ." See Community Blood Bank of Kansas City Area, Inc. v. F.T.C., 405 F.2d 1011 (8th Cir. 1969), where the court interpreted the legislative history of this section, stating:

". . . Congress did not intend to provide a blanket exclusion of all non-profit corporations, for it was also aware that corporations ostensibly organized not-for-profit, such as trade associations, were merely vehicles through which a pecuniary profit could be realized for themselves or their members." 405 F.2d at 1017.

In holding that the Blood Bank was a solely charitable enterprise, the Eighth Circuit distinguished the line of cases following F.T.C. v. Cement Institute, 333 U.S. 683, 92 L. Ed. 1010, 68 S. Ct. 793 (1948), and Fashion Originators' Guild of America v. F.T.C., 312 U.S. 457, 85 L. Ed. 949, 61 S. Ct. 703 (1941), explaining:

"It is evident, however, that the organizations in the above cases were designed to and did in fact bring together firms having common business concerns and such organizations or their members derived a profit over and above the ability to perpetuate or maintain their existence." 405 F.2d at 1019.

See also National Harness Mfrs.' Ass'n v. F.T.C., 268 F. 705 (6th Cir. 1920). In the instant case, there is sufficient evidence to support the District Court's finding that NCEN was organized for the profit of the egg industry, even though it pursues that profit indirectly. The clear purpose of the statements in issue in this case is to encourage the consumption of eggs by allaying fears the public may have about their high cholesterol content. Also, given the nature of the pronouncements in question, the District Court could properly conclude that they were advertisements within the meaning of that term as used in the Act, because they were representations concerning the qualities of a product and promoting its purchase and use. See Koch v. F.T.C., 206 F.2d 311, 317-318 (6th Cir. 1953); compare Scientific Mfg. Co. v. F.T.C., 124 F.2d 640, 643-645 (3rd Cir. 1941).


As the District Court recognized, the Commission invoked section 13(a) as the basis for the issuance of a temporary injunction. We now turn, therefore, to the showing the Commission must make in order to receive injunctive relief under that subsection.

Section 13 of the Act consists of two different grants of authority to the Commission to seek injunctions against violations of the Act. Section 13(a) provides in substance that "whenever the Commission has reason to believe" that a corporation is engaged in dissemination of materially misleading advertising intended to induce the purchase of items of food, in violation of section 12 of the Act, and further has reason to believe that enjoining that conduct "would be to the interest of the public," the Commission is authorized to bring suit in a federal district court for injunctive relief, and "upon [a] proper showing a temporary injunction . . . shall be granted . . . ." By contrast, section 13(b) is a general grant of authority to seek injunctions "whenever the Commission has reason to believe . . . that any corporation . . . is violating . . . any provision of law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission," and provides that "upon a proper showing that, weighing the equities and considering the Commission's likelihood of ultimate success, such action would be in the public interest, . . . a preliminary injunction may be granted." (Emphasis added.)

Congress added subsection (b) in 1973, leaving subsection (a) unchanged. By providing the traditional equity standards italicized in the above quotation and the permissive "may" in (b), while leaving (a) without those standards and with its peremptory "shall," Congress indicated an intention that those standards be applied in proceedings under (b) but not in those under (a), and no intention that the judicial interpretations of (a) should be affected by the amendment. This inference is not refuted by the somewhat ambiguous legislative history of the amendment. Accordingly, our decision in F.T.C. v. Rhodes Pharmacal ...

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