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California bans foie gras, middle-class people finally get hit in this recession

Posted by: Laurence Simons 16/07/12

The French delicacy has been outlawed, but that ain't the end of that.

Have you ever refused to eat anything so hard that you got sued by France? No, of course not. That is probably because you are not, personally, the state of California. But that's not the only shock on the cards for you today.

Scratch back, rewind, rev up the DeLorean to 88mph: it is 2004, and the US courts are busy passing a bird feeding law. Basically you cannot now put a tube in a bird, and then put bread down that tube, and then eat the result. The result, in this case, is foie gras, or 'the John Prescott of animal organs'.

Why is this 2004 niche law in the news? Because as of July 1st 2012, that eight-year-old ruling that prohibits sales and production kicked in: between then and now, California foie gras farmers and those who supplied feathers for down jackets and pillows were supposed to de-tube their ducks, turn the lights off at their duck farm and find another, less gross, job. And they did, mostly, leaving hoards of foodies blubbering into their jus as foie gras supplies have dwindled down to a nub.

But some restaurants absolutely will not take a ruling to stop them serving engorged organs lying down. The OC Register reported Antoine Price, owner of Café Mimosa in San Clemente, faced a $1,00 (£644) fine for serving a seven-course meal entitled 'Foie You!' following the ban, where each course including the dessert centred on the delicacy. "They can lock me up if they want," said Price (he means for his cooking, not his wordplay) (he absolutely should be locked up for his wordplay). "I don't mind."

Flamboyantly moody chefs and foie flouts aside, there is some legal wrangling to overcome here. A Los Angeles collective comprising restaurant groups and foie suppliers has challenged the ban, claiming a loophole in the ruling where lawmakers neglected to specify the exact definition of 'overfeeding a duck' - in terms of weight or volume or caloric values - means the statute cannot determine at what point a duck has been stuffed. Kind of like a clingy mum arguing their fat kid is just big boned and glandular.

And the entire country of France is pretty miffed also, with foie gras being a major export for them. "It's a question of cultural shock," said Marie-Pierre Pe, of Paris-based Interprofessional Committee of Foie Gras. "Could you imagine France banning ketchup or hamburgers?" she asks. Well, yes, kind of. But that's beside the point: as a pan-Atlantic battle over meat breaks out, anyone in legal jobs who specialises in 'picking holes in eight-year-old federal rulings' should leave their pager switched on.