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Foie Gras May Be Banned in California ... Again

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 05, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Ninth Circuit Court may soon hear a case involving the legality of foie gras in California eateries.

If you're not a regular consumer of the French delicacy, you're probably not aware that the production and selling of traditionally made foie gras (which is essentially any foie gras) was made illegal in 2012. It's also a pretty good bet that you did not know that District Judge Stephen V. Wilson overturned a section that banned the sale of foie gras in California. If you love foie gras, you'd better start savoring the memory because it could be made illegal again in a state near you.

First Foie Gras Ban

In 2004, animal rights activists pushed for the introduction of S.B. 1520 that would ban the practice of force feeding ducks and geese for the purpose of enlarging their liver. To the relief of California foodies, the law included a provision that the law would not go into effect until about eight years later in 2012. In the months leading up to that date, panicked gourmands flocked to yuppie eateries in order to partake in the delicacy one last time before it became illegal.

District Decision

Judge Stephen Wilson granted a partial summary judgment in favor for a coalition of poultry producers and restauranteurs, ruling that the between California Health and Safety Codes secs. 25981 and 25982, the latter was preempted by federal Poultry Products Inspections Act -- basically, a more honed version of the Commerce Clause aimed specifically at the sale and purchase of poultry. Essentially, the Supremacy Clause saved foie gras sales in California. Yay, fed!

Currently Back on the Block

California Attorney General Kamala Harris must not like the spread because she hurried a notice to appeal soon after Judge Wilson's decision. The Ninth Circuit has already heard the first round of oral arguments for and against the serving of foie gras. Animal rights groups obviously approved Harris' move and are hopeful that the circuit court will vacate Wilson's ruling.


Daring restauranteurs have fashioned ways to skirt the language of sec. 25982 by serving foie gras obtained from outside of California -- but not selling it. Neat trick, eh?.

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