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Press Release

The Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues USDA to Label Foie Gras for What It Is—Diseased

Suit asserts agency is misleading consumers with its seal of inspection

Contact: Natalia Lima, nlima@aldf.org, 201 679 7088

San Francisco. CA — The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s leading legal advocacy organization for animals, today filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its “undue delay” in responding to an Animal Legal Defense Fund petition to require the labeling of foie gras.

In September 2011, Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a legal petition with the USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service urging that the agencies require that foie gras—the “fatty liver” of a force-fed duck or goose—bear a consumer warning label stating, “NOTICE: Foie gras products are derived from diseased birds.”

The Administrative Procedure Act requires agencies to conclude matters before them—including citizen petitions for rulemaking—within a reasonable time. Thus, by failing to respond to Animal Legal Defense Fund’s petition for more than four years, the USDA has violated the law. Animal Legal Defense Fund is asking the court to order the agency to answer its petition.

Foie gras consists of the pathologically diseased livers of ducks and geese, who are force-fed massive amounts of grain, which causes their livers to swell to ten times their normal size and induces numerous painful conditions in the birds.

“The USDA is responsible for ensuring that all poultry products that enter the food supply are from healthy animals,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Despite the diseased origins of foie gras and the threat it poses to human health, the agency allows foie gras products to carry its official mark of inspection, which misleads consumers into thinking that they have been inspected for wholesomeness. This violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act.”

Animal Legal Defense Fund and a coalition of animal protection groups are concurrently suing the USDA for its denial of an earlier petition for rulemaking that asked the agency to keep this diseased poultry product out of the food supply as required by the Act.

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