Important Supreme Court Rulings that Affect the Food We Eat Today

Mar 07, 2016 12:29 PM EST | By Josine Macaspac (


The Supreme Court of the United States or SCOTUS has made important life changing decisions with regard to American lives. Not surprisingly, the SCOTUS has majorly contributed to the some of the most interesting facts about the food and drink that are being enjoyed in the country. We take a look at a few of the curious ways the SCOTUS has had its hand in American food and drink.

Tomatoes Are Vegetables - Nix vs Hidden (1893)

Ever wonder why people are confused as to whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables? Botanically speaking tomatoes are fruits. But the Supreme Court in this case ruled officially that tomatoes are to be considered as vegetables for tax purposes. The Court decided this was because of tomatoes' common use. Tomatoes were principally used as part of the main course like other vegetables were, unlike other fruits that were generally part of the dessert.

Age Limit for Drinking - South Dakota vs Dole (1984)

21 years old is wasn't the minimum drinking age for the U.S. three decades ago. In fact, the drinking age used to vary per state. This all changed when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was passed. This piece of legislation mandated the withholding of 5 percent of the transportation budget of any state that doesn't enforce the 21 years and above drinking age. South Dakota's minimum drinking age was set at 19 years old at the time. South Dakota files suit and lost in a 7 to 2 decision. The Court found that the legislation was in pursuit of "general welfare" which met the legal requirement of reasonable means in its implementation.

Wine Delivered at Your Doorstep -Granholm vs. Heald (2004)

In 2004, the SCOTUS ruled that states favour in-state wineries at the expense of out-state wineries. Prior to the ruling, some states allowed in-state wineries the shipment of alcohol directly to consumers within the state but restricted out-state wineries from doing the same. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled this was economic discrimination. But the ruling only implies that states can't have varying shipment rules for those wineries in-state and out-state. It's either they allowed both or didn't allow both at all. In fact, Michigan validly banned shipment all together.

Pomegranate Blueberry Juice that's 99% Apple and Grape juice -POM Wonderful vs Coca-Cola (2014)

POM Wonderful was a company that sold pomegranate blueberry juice that they called POM Wonderful. Coca-Cola announced that it was releasing its own version of the pomegranate blueberry juice. Now the interesting thing about all this is that the juice that Coca-Cola sold contained 99% apple and grape juice and 0.5% pomegranate and blueberry. POM Wonderful filed a false advertising case under the Lanham Act against the soft drinks giant Coca-Cola but a district court ruled that POM Wonderful can't. They said that Coca-Cola was in violation of the Food and Drug Cosmetics Act and only the FDA can file a claim for violations under such Act. The Court of appeals ruled the same but the SCOTUS declared both lower courts incorrect in an 8-0 decision. It said that the two Acts complement each other and POM Wonderful can't be barred from filing the case.

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