California court approves import of foie gras from out of state, barred in 2012

A California law that effectively bans foie gras sales in the state was limited in part on Friday. Californians can continue purchasing the controversial pate from out-of-state retailers, the ninth circuit court of appeals said in a ruling.

The law, which passed in 2004 and went into effect in 2012, bars the sale of foie gras if produced by force feeding geese or ducks, according to Courthouse News Service. As the mousse is traditionally produced from the engorged livers of force-fed geese and ducks, the legislation is a near-prohibition.

The ninth circuit’s decision upheld a lower court’s 2020 ruling, which also permitted the shipping of out-of-state foie gras through third-party delivery companies, according to the Associated Press.

This ruling is only applicable to people who purchase foie gras for their individual use; California law still bars retailers and restaurants from selling or giving away foie gras. The law has been challenged repeatedly since its enactment.

Animal welfare advocates, such as the Humane Society, backed California’s foie gras statute, contending that the food is inherently cruel. Foie gras means “fatty liver” in French. Some producers maintain that force-feeding merely mirrors a phenomenon that takes place in nature, as geese and ducks overeat to bank energy for migration.

Foie gras producers, such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York, challenged California’s legislation. The foie gras producers contended that California’s state law clashed with interstate commerce, as well as federal food rules that permit force-feeding for foie gras.

The producers’ attorneys reportedly said that they would challenge the court’s 3-0 ruling, and would request another hearing before a larger ninth circuit panel.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chef Sean Chaney said he still thinks the law is unconstitutional, but that “I’m also glad that 40 million Californians can continue to enjoy the foie gras products they buy online, and I hope to be able to cook it for them soon again.”

An attorney for the Humane Society told the newspaper that this ruling does not dramatically undermine the statute. “Only a narrow form of transaction a sale by sellers outside the state, shipping to end-use consumers in the state is still allowed,” the lawyer, Ralph Henry, said.

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