One day after arguing to a federal appeals court in Los Angeles that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should prevent the sale of foie gras, an animal-advocacy group sued the federal agency again Thursday, accusing it of failing to respond to its request that the delicacy at least come with a warning label.
Attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense said they petitioned the USDA in 2011 to require that foie gras be labeled with a warning that reads, “NOTICE: Foie gras products are derived from diseased birds.”
The agency, however, still has not responded to the petition, according to Kelsey Eberly, a litigation fellow with the ALDF.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Northern California, asks that the USDA be compelled to respond to the petition.
The ALDF contends that foie gras is made from the “pathologically diseased livers of ducks and geese, who are force-fed massive amounts of grain, which causes their livers to swell to 10 times their normal size and induces numerous painful conditions in the birds.” The group pointed to a study by the National Academy of Sciences finding that the consumption of foie gras can lead to abnormal build-up of proteins in tissues and organs in humans.
“Despite these dangers, USDA has not only failed to stop the entry of foie gras into the food supply, but has also flouted its statutory obligation to prohibit false and misleading labeling with respect to foie gras,” according to the lawsuit.
USDA officials could not be reached for immediate comment.
On Wednesday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in an earlier lawsuit filed by ALDF and other groups seeking to have foie gras removed from the nation’s food supply. Eberly said the group petitioned the USDA in 2007, saying the product is from diseased poultry and should not be sold or consumed. The USDA rejected the request in 2009, and ALDF sued two years later — leading to Wednesday’s appeals court hearing.
The court heard oral arguments on the case, then took the matter under submission. It was not immediately known when a ruling might be issued.
Also still pending before the 9th Circuit is a lawsuit over the validity of a 2012 California law that banned restaurants from serving foie gras.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson struck down the ban earlier this year, finding that the law was unconstitutional because it interferes with the U.S. Poultry Products Inspections Act, an existing federal law that regulates poultry products and trumps state regulations. California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the ruling, with the support of ALDF and other groups.
The 9th Circuit has not yet heard arguments on that case.
— Wire reports