Dr. Lee Wins Price Ruling

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By the Vitamins Product Company

Summary: During World War II, government-enforced price controls dictated what various items and commodities could be sold for. When federal agents prosecuted Dr. Royal Lee for selling the famously nutritious whole-wheat flour from Deaf Smith County, Texas, at a cost beyond the control price for ordinary flour, Dr. Lee fought back in federal court and won, as described in the newspaper account preserved here. Also included is a commentary on the incident by Dr. Lee, attributed to his business The Vitamin Products Company. From The Milwaukee Journal, 1946.

[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]

Dr. Lee Wins Price Ruling—Court Rebukes OPA

[Note: The OPA, or Office of Price Administration, was established within the Office for Emergency Management of the United States government by Executive Order 8875 on August 28, 1941. The OPA’s function was to enforce price controls on goods and rents after the outbreak of World War II. Dr. Royal Lee sold premium Deaf Smith County whole-grain flour at a price above commercial whole-wheat flour and found himself in court against the OPA. Upon appeal, Dr. Lee won his case.]

Dr. Royal Lee, Milwaukee “health food” manufacturer, has won his case against the OPA. The United States emergency court of appeals has held that the specially ground whole wheat flour that Dr. Lee manufactures and sells is not ordinary whole wheat flour, and that he had a legal right to charge more than ordinary whole wheat flour ceiling prices. Price control over this flour expired two months ago.

The Vitamin Products Co., 2023 W. Wisconsin Ave., operated by Dr. Lee, sells about 4,500 pounds a month of a whole wheat flour ground only from wheat grown in Deaf Smith county, Texas. Because of a peculiarity of the soil there, this wheat contains far more than the normal amount of phosphorus and calcium, it is claimed. This wheat is stone ground.

Denied Higher Ceiling

The OPA refused to grant higher ceiling prices for this finely ground whole wheat flour, and Federal Judge F. Ryan Duffy found the company guilty of violating ceiling prices and assessed $1,695 damages. The emergency court of appeals, in a decision handed down last week, criticized the OPA for its attitude and declared that portion of the price control act to be invalid.

The court of appeals held that Dr. Lee’s flour contains “approximately 95 percent of the essential oils, minerals and vitamins of the original wheat berry.”

Court Rebukes OPA

Pointing out that this flour is prescribed by many physicians for use in the daily diet of sufferers from malnutrition, and that its production cost is considerably higher than that of ordinary flour, the court said of the OPA administrator:

“Instead of recognizing that a portion of the community believes this to be so and has historically been willing to back up that belief with its money by paying the higher prices which the greater cost of stone grinding makes necessary, he (the administrator) argues that these specially milled whole wheat flours do not in fact have the advantages claimed for them.

“He thus enters upon a field which has been long and vehemently debated but which is wholly outside his province of price control.”

[Notice from the Vitamin Products Company:]

Notice: We Are Accepting New Orders for Deaf Smith Whole Wheat Flour

In June of 1945 the O.P.A. took action to stop us from selling Deaf Smith Flour above the ceiling price of commercial whole wheat flour. This action made it necessary for us to defend ourselves through long and expensive court litigation to prove that our product was different and of a superior quality.

The United States Court of Appeals have recognized some very important facts pertaining to the difference between Deaf Smith Flour and standard commercial whole wheat flour and have ruled in our favor. The following is an excerpt from the decision:

“ . . . From the evidence in this case we have found that specially milled whole wheat flour of the type of Deaf Smith Flour have long been recognized in the trade as being distinctive and different from standard commercial whole wheat flours in manner of milling and other characteristics. We have also found that they have been purchased for use in the diet of sufferers from malnutrition and others by reason of the higher nutritional value which they are believed to possess, and that because of their greater cost of milling they have historically commanded a higher price than standard commercial whole wheat flours.”

Reprinted from the The Milwaukee Journal, December 22, 1946, by the Vitamin Products Company. 

Vitamin Products Company
Milwaukee 3, Wisconsin

Subjects: Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research and Politics and Nutrition