Animal Protection Groups File Legal Petition Asking USDA to Declare Foie Gras Unfit for Human Consumption

Posted on November 28, 2007

Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, NYU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and several individuals filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service calling on the agency to issue new regulations declaring foie gras a diseased product that is unfit for human food under the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).

The petition includes hundreds of pages of supporting documentation citing statements from leading avian veterinarians in the United States explaining how the production of foie gras causes ducks and geese to contract a fatty liver disease known as "hepatic lipidosis." The petition is also supported by a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicating that the consumption of foie gras may pose health risks to a significant portion of foie gras consumers.

"Foie gras is a cruel, diseased product that has no place in the human food supply," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president for Animal Protection Litigation with The Humane Society of the United States. "Federal law requires USDA to protect consumers from diseased poultry products, and that is exactly what this petition asks the agency to do."

Facts

  • Foie gras is made from the intentionally diseased, fattened livers of ducks and geese. To produce force-fed foie gras, producers force-feed birds an unnatural amount of food through a pipe thrust down their throats until their livers expand to ten times their natural size. This force-feeding can cause painful bruising, lacerations, sores, organ rupture, and even death.
  • The Poultry Products Inspection Act requires that poultry products be condemned if they consist of any "filthy, putrid or decomposed substance or is for any other reason, unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food."
  • Chicago, California, and more than a dozen countries–including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland–have taken legislative action on the issue of foie gras and cruel force-feeding practices. Even the Pope has condemned it. 
  • A 2004 Zogby poll showed that 77 percent of Americans believe the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese for foie gras should be banned.

Timeline

  • June 18, 2007–A study by Dr. Alan Solomon, M.D., from the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that consumption of foie gras may trigger the onset of Secondary Amyloidosis in certain people, including those with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • June 12, 2007–A federal court in Chicago issues a decision upholding the city’s ban on the sale of foie gras. 
  • March 2007–Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck announces that he will no longer use foie gras
  • February 2007–New York issues a $30,000 penalty against Hudson Valley Foie Gras for violating state environmental law more than 800 times. 
  • November 2006–The HSUS and other organizations file suit against New York State to prohibit the production and sale of foie gras as an adulterated food product
  • August 2006–The HSUS sues the state for granting a $420,000 subsidy for expansion of Hudson Valley Foie Gras’ operations. 
  • April 2006–The Chicago City Council overwhelmingly passes an ordinance by a vote of 48-1 banning the sale of foie gras within the city, effective August 2006. 
  • August 2004–California bans the production and sale of foie gras, effective 2012.


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