California introduces 'prohibition' of foie gras
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California on Sunday began enforcing a ban on producing, selling and consuming foie gras, a famous French delicacy made by force-feeding geese and ducks. It is the first time its consumption has been outlawed, and French authorities are not amused.
Foie gras – a French delicacy made by force-feeding geese and ducks – was officially banned in California on Sunday.
The ban was written into state law seven years ago and came into force on July 1 after a “period of grace” to allow local producers to find alternative means of making a living.
Foie gras production is already banned in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel.
But it is the first time actual consumption of the delicacy has been outlawed.
The “prohibition” will not unduly affect French exports as most foie gras consumed in California is locally produced.
Nevertheless, the French authorities are not amused.
France taking ban “seriously”
In an online press briefing on Thursday, France’s foreign ministry said the country, “can only regret California’s decision.”
However, a French diplomatic source later told Reuters, “It may seem like this is just a side story, but we’re taking it extremely seriously.
“Foie gras is an important part of the French gastronomic heritage and it has been recognised as such by UNESCO. There is no reason France should accept this state of affairs,” he argued.
French producers, meanwhile, are worried about what California’s ban will do to the international image of one of the country’s most recognised luxury exports.
“This is hugely prejudicial to our image,” said Marie-Pierre Pé, head of Comité Interprofessionnel du Foie Gras, the Professional Committee of Foie Gras Producers in English. “This ban isn’t going to affect us commercially, but it makes us look bad. California, after all, is a trend-setting state that the rest of the world has a tendency to follow.”
Famed French chef André Daguin said he believed there could be sinister repercussions from the ban, and compared it to the 1920s prohibition of alcohol which saw the rise of criminal bootleggers.
Fois gras to go “underground”?
“This will spur consumption and people will make fortunes thanks to it,” he told Reuters. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say it will create a new Al Capone, but it’s like that.”
Literally translated as “fat liver”, foie gras is made by forcing corn into the stomachs of ducks and geese in a process called “gavage” in French, leaving the animals unnaturally overweight and with enlarged livers.
The livers are used to make paté or sold as a “bloc”, with a unique flavour and buttery consistency.
The ban has been a victory for animal rights activists, who say that the “gavage” process is inhumane and cruel.
Not everyone in California feels that way. A group of restaurateurs calling themselves the Coalition for Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) has been trying to lobby the authorities to repeal the law, but without any success.
Former Senator John Burton, now head of the Californian Democratic party and the man behind the law, stoked controversy in May when he responded to the CHEFS campaign by saying that he would “like to sit the chefs down and have dry oatmeal shoved down their throats over and over and over again.”