It’s No Longer Illegal to Serve Foie Gras in California

Foie gras, the fattened liver of duck or goose, is no longer illegal to serve in California, as long as the product is comes from an out-of-state seller and is transported by a third party, according to a ruling from a federal judge today, reports the Associated Press.

The luxurious delicacy has had a lengthy history in California, where it was first banned in 2004 at the urging of animal rights activists. In 2015, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson determined that the state law clashed with the federal government’s Poultry Products Inspection Act, ruling in the favor of the plaintiffs, which included Hermosa Beach restaurant Hots Kitchen (which is now closed), and multiple foie gras producers.

Foie gras could then be sold and eaten in California, but not produced in the state. Menus across Los Angeles and the state of California served foie gras, an expensive add-on or ingredient that often appeared in upscale restaurants. However, in 2017, Ninth Circuit judges rejected the the lower court’s ruling and said the state had a right to ban the food based on animal cruelty. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which meant the foie gras ban was indeed upheld and enforced for the past 18 months in California.

On July 14, 2020 U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who originally ruled in favor of foie gras producers and a local LA restaurant in 2015, again determined that foie gras could be sold in California: “There is no principled way to distinguish between foie gras produced out of state and transported into California by the purchaser and that which is delivered by a third party,” wrote Wilson.

The ruling is a major win for out-of-state foie gras producers, who said they had lost nearly a third of sales due to California’s foie gras ban. Meanwhile, the current coronavirus pandemic has led to closed dining rooms, and only limited takeout and delivery service for restaurants. The situation has resulted in numerous permanent restaurant shutters across Los Angeles (and the state). But hey, chefs can start serving foie gras again (does it keep well in takeout containers?), as long as it comes from outside of California and arrives through a third party.

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