Under the Meat Inspection Act, the Secretary of Agriculture is
authorized to prohibit the use of the word "sausage" as false and
deceptive, when applied to a compound of meat, with added cereal in
excess of 2 percent and added water or ice in excess of 3 percent.
P. 249 U. S.
The act does not require the Secretary to mark a meat food
product "inspected and passed" merely because it is wholesome and
free from dyes and chemicals if it is to be sold under a deceptive
name. P. 249 U. S.
Whether the name "sausage" is deceptive as applied to a compound
of meat with added cereal and water is a question of fact which the
statute submits to the determination of the Secretary, under the
power it gives him to make rules and regulations for carrying it
into effect, and his decision, when fairly arrived at on
substantial evidence, is conclusive. Id.
242 F. 337 reversed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Secretary of Agriculture, assuming to exercise authority
under the Meat Inspection Act, approved
Page 249 U. S. 480
June 30, 1906, c. 3913, 34 Stat. 669, 676, 678, promulgated a
regulation, effective April 1, 1913, in part as follows,
"Washington, D.C., Feb. 28, 1913"
"For the purpose of preventing the use in interstate or foreign
commerce of meat or meat food products under any false or deceptive
name, under the authority conferred on the Secretary of Agriculture
by the provisions of the act of Congress, approved June 30, 1906
(34 Stat. 674), Regulation 18 is hereby amended by the addition of
sections 15 and 16, to read as hereinafter set out."
"Secretary of Agriculture"
" (Section 16, paragraph 1.) Sausage shall not contain cereal in
excess of two percent; when cereal is added its presence shall be
stated on the label or on the product."
" (Paragraph 2.) Water or ice shall not be added to sausage,
except for the purpose of facilitating grinding, chopping and
mixing, in which case the added water or ice shall not exceed three
percent, except as provided in the following paragraph."
Immediately after the effective date of this regulation, the
appellee, an extensive manufacturer of sausage, correctly
interpreting it as prohibiting the marking, stamping or labeling as
"sausage" any compound of chopped or minced meats containing cereal
in excess of two percent and water or ice in excess of three
percent (except as otherwise provided), filed the bill in this case
in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern Division
of the Eastern District of Missouri, averring that "sausage" made
by it with cereal and water in excess of the requirements of the
regulation was wholesome and fit for human food and that the effect
of the order would be to exclude its product from interstate
commerce, to its great and irreparable damage. The prayer was
Page 249 U. S. 481
the defendants, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the officers
subordinate to him, be enjoined from refusing to mark as "Inspected
and passed" all "sausage" manufactured by the petitioner found to
be sound, healthful, and wholesome, and which contained no dyes,
chemicals, preservatives, or ingredients which would render such
"sausage" unsound, unwholesome, or unfit for human food; that they
be required by mandatory injunction to mark such "sausage" as
"Inspected and passed," and that the regulation be declared to be
unauthorized by law, null and void.
The district court denied the application, on the bill, for an
injunction (204 F. 120), but, on appeal, that holding was reversed,
and the case was remanded by the circuit court of appeals (215 F.
The Secretary of Agriculture then answered, admitting that it
was the purpose of the Department to refuse, and that it had
refused, to mark as "Inspected and passed" as "sausage" the product
of the appellee unless manufactured in compliance with the
regulations complained of, and, as warrant therefor, he quoted in
his answer from the act of Congress the following:
"No such meat or meat food products shall be sold or offered
for sale by any person, firm, or corporation in interstate or
foreign commerce under any false or deceptive name, but established
tradename or names which are usual to such products and which are
not false and deceptive and which shall be approved by the
Secretary of Agriculture are permitted,
and that said
Secretary of Agriculture shall, from time to time, make such rules
and regulations as are necessary for the efficient execution of the
provisions of this Act, and all inspections and examinations made
under this Act shall be such and made in such manner as described
in the rules and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of
Agriculture not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act. "
Page 249 U. S. 482
Answering the allegation of the bill that the appellee's trade
in "sausage" would be ruined by the enforcement of the regulation,
the Secretary of Agriculture averred that the appellee manufactured
and sold large quantities of sausage which did not contain any
cereal or added water, and added:
"That the manufacture and sale of a product as sausage which
product contains added cereal and water in quantities as described
in plaintiff's bill, or in any quantities in excess of the amount
designated in said regulation, effective April 1, 1913, is false
and deceptive; that the ordinary consumer of sausage manufactured
by the plaintiff has no knowledge or information that sausage
contains cereal and added water, that such information is not
conveyed to persons who purchase plaintiff's sausage at retail by
any method of marking or branding now or heretofore in use by
plaintiff, and that it is impracticable and impossible in the
ordinary course of manufacture and distribution of sausage to mark
or brand the same so that the purchaser at retail or the consumer
will be informed as to the amount of cereal and water added
An elaborate trial on the merits resulted in the dismissal of
the bill by the district court, but this judgment was reversed by a
divided circuit court of appeals and the case was remanded with
directions to award the appellee injunctions substantially as
prayed for. The case is here for review on appeal.
The claim made by the government in the lower courts that the
compound of meats, cereal, and water which the appellee claimed the
right to sell as "sausage" was unwholesome is abandoned in this
Court, and the only question argued and submitted is whether it was
within the power of the Secretary of Agriculture to prohibit the
use of the word "sausage" as false and deceptive within the meaning
of the act when applied to the appellee's product.
Page 249 U. S. 483
The foregoing statement shows that the question for decision in
this Court is whether, in promulgating the regulation assailed, the
Secretary of Agriculture acted arbitrarily and in excess of the
authority given him by the act of Congress to make from time to
time such rules and regulations as are necessary for the efficient
enforcement of the act, or whether he acted in good faith and upon
substantial grounds in deciding that the sale of appellee's product
as "sausage" resulted in deception of purchasers and consumers, so
that his determination of such question of fact was within the
power conferred upon him as the head of an executive department of
the government, and is not subject to review by the courts.
The contention of the government is that the product of the
appellee being a meat food product, put up in containers -- casings
or canvas coverings -- it falls within the prohibition of the act
that such product shall not be sold or offered for sale by any
corporation in interstate commerce "under any false or deceptive
name," and that the regulation being for the purpose of preventing
its sale under the false or deceptive name of "sausage," it is
plainly within the authority given to the Secretary of Agriculture
to make rules and regulations for the efficient execution of the
On the other hand, the contention of the appellee is that, the
product being wholesome and containing no dyes or chemicals which
render it unfit for human food, an earlier provision of the act
applies which it is asserted deprives the Secretary of all
discretion in such a case and requires that he shall cause the
product to be marked "Inspected and passed," and also, it is
claimed, that the word "sausage," when qualified as was required by
prior regulations by including in the label such expressions as
"Cereal added," or "Sausage and cereal," was not a false or
The contention of the appellee that, if its product is
Page 249 U. S. 484
wholesome, and if it does not contain dyes and chemicals, the
act imperatively requires the Secretary to mark its product as
"Inspected and passed" is clearly unsound if the word "sausage" as
applied to it is false and deceptive, for plainly the provision of
the act requiring the marking of the product must be harmonized
with the subsequent provision that no such meat or meat food
product shall be sold or offered for sale under any false or
Whether or not the term "sausage," when applied to the product
of the appellee, in which more than the permitted amount of cereal
and water is used, is false and deceptive is a question of fact the
determination of which is committed to the decision of the
Secretary of Agriculture by the authority given him to make rules
and regulations for giving effect to the act, and the law is that
the conclusion of the head of an executive department on such a
question will not be reviewed by the courts where it is fairly
arrived at with substantial evidence to support it.
This rule has been most frequently applied in Land Department
cases, but often also to decisions by heads of other
Thus, to the action of the Secretary of the Navy in
14 Pet. 497, 609, to the action of the
Secretary of the Interior, on full consideration of the subject, in
7 Wall. 347, and in Burfenning v.
Chicago etc. Ry. Co., 163 U. S. 321
to decisions of the Postmaster General in Bates & Guild Co.
v. Payne, 194 U. S. 106
Smith v. Hitchcock, 226 U. S. 53
doctrine has been extended by act of Congress to decisions by the
Secretary of Commerce and Labor. Tang Tun v. Edsell,
223 U. S. 673
Zakonaite v. Wolf, 226 U. S. 272
Lewis v. Frick, 233 U. S. 291
The scope of the rule is illustrated by this Court, saying, in
Johnson v. Drew, 171 U. S. 93
171 U. S.
"If there is any one thing respecting the administration
Page 249 U. S. 485
of the public lands which must be considered as settled by
repeated adjudications of this Court, it is that the decision of
the Land Department upon mere questions of fact is, in the absence
of fraud or deceit, conclusive, and such questions cannot
thereafter be relitigated in the courts."
And in New Orleans v. Paine, 147 U.
, 147 U. S.
"In Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad,
the present term, ante, 147 U. S.
, we had occasion to examine the question as to when
a court was authorized to interfere by injunction with the action
of the head of a department, and came to the conclusion that it was
only where, in any view of the facts that could be taken, such
action was beyond the scope of his authority. If he were engaged in
the performance of a duty which involved the exercise of discretion
or judgment, he was entitled to protection from any interference by
the judicial power."
That the case before us is one for the application of this rule
is shown by the record, which contains an interesting history of
what large manufacturers have come, in a more or less gradual
progress, to regard as the proper ingredients of the product which
they have sold as sausage, and which also shows, without conflict,
that the ultimate purchaser and consumer of the product is not
informed, and in general does not know, of the presence of cereal
and added water in it. The evidence shows that the poorer classes
of beef and pork are used in making sausage, such as trimmings,
hearts, ears, cheeks, liver, snouts and tripe, "and all that kind
of things," but the preferred material is bull meat; that such
meat, other than bull meat, is dry, and has not the cohesive
properties which will unite it when ground or minced into the mass
popularly known as "sausage," and that, for this reason, corn meal,
potato flour, and other like substances have come to be used by the
trade as "binders" to give it the desired cohesiveness and
Page 249 U. S. 486
The president of the appellee testified that, when he first
began making sausage twenty-five years ago, he used anywhere from
five percent to twelve percent of cereal, and that, when the
regulation was promulgated, he was using two or three percent to
ten percent, when he used any at all, but that in a part of his
product he did not use any, notably in that which was sent into
Pennsylvania, where the use of cereal was prohibited by statute;
that, when he used ten percent of cereal, he added from fifteen to
twenty percent of water, and that, in general, water was added in
double the percentage of cereal used, and that the cereal, usually
corn meal or corn flour, was resorted to to cheapen the product and
cost about two cents a pound, while the meat used cost from six to
fifteen cents a pound.
Before the regulation assailed was promulgated, cereal and water
were generally used by large manufacturers of sausage, but all of
the representatives of manufacturers, other than those of the
appellee, who were called as witnesses testified that they were
obeying the regulation, and the agreement of such witnesses was
general that retail purchasers and consumers did not know of the
presence of cereal in what they were buying as sausage.
There is conflict in the evidence as to whether the use of
cereal in excess of the prescribed amounts renders the product less
digestible and wholesome, whether it reduces its food value, and
whether the sausage will ferment in a shorter time than when cereal
is not used at all, or when used in smaller quantities.
The result, thus stated, of the examination of the record before
us shows beyond controversy that the Secretary of Agriculture, in
promulgating the regulation complained of, acted on substantial
evidence and with sufficient reason in concluding that persons
purchasing or using as "sausage" the appellee's compound of various
meats, cereal, and water would be deceived as to its composition
Page 249 U. S. 487
as to its value as a food product, and we cannot say that it was
an abuse of discretion to prohibit the use of the word "sausage" as
applied to it, rather than to prescribe qualifying terms
explanatory of it. Few purchasers read long labels, many cannot
read them at all, and the act of Congress having committed to the
head of the department, constantly dealing with such matters, the
discretion to determine as to whether the use of the word "sausage"
in a label would be false and deceptive or not under such
circumstances as we have here, this Court will not review, and the
circuit court of appeals should not have reviewed and reversed, the
decision of the Secretary of Agriculture.
The decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit is reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings
not inconsistent with this opinion.