Foie Gras from Diseased Birds

USDA Allowed Sale of Foie Gras from Diseased Birds

Federal Poultry Products Inspection Act Requires USDA to Prohibit Adulterated Livers from Entering Food Supply

For Immediate Release • May 9, 2012

Cheryl Leahy, COK: 773-259-7760 or
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF: 707-795-2533, ext. 1015 or
Meredith Turner, Farm Sanctuary: 646-369-6212 or
Bryan Pease, APRL: 619-723-0369 or

Los Angeles – This morning, the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Over Killing, the Animal Protection and Rescue League, and several individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violating the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) by allowing adulterated poultry – in the form of foie gras – to be sold to consumers. Under PPIA, the USDA is responsible for condemning all poultry products that come from diseased birds. Foie gras consists of the pathologically diseased livers of ducks who are force-fed massive amounts of grain, inducing the disease of hepatic lipidosis, which causes their livers to swell to ten times their normal size. Plaintiffs are being represented in this matter by lawyers in the Los Angeles office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, as co-counsel with ALDF.

Why is the USDA under fire for supporting cruelty to animals and putting human health at risk? The unhealthy force-feeding of birds for foie gras production has been banned because of its egregious cruelty in over a dozen countries, and a California state ban will go into effect on July 1, 2012. Further, in addition to being diseased, foie gras products may induce disease. A recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences linked the consumption of foie gras to secondary amyloidosis, a deadly disease that affects humans. People with chronic inflammatory disease, including the 2.1 million Americans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, are at greater risk for developing secondary amyloidosis after eating force-fed foie gras.

“The USDA is effectively exempting force-fed foie gras from the scrutiny required by federal law, allowing foie gras producers to market diseased organs as gourmet delicacies,” says ALDF executive director Stephen Wells. In the past, ALDF has petitioned the USDA to use warning labels on foie gras – the “fatty liver” of a force-fed duck or goose – reading “NOTICE: Foie gras products are derived from diseased birds.”

Bruce Friedrich, senior director of strategic initiatives at Farm Sanctuary, states , “For the same reason we wouldn’t induce liver disease in dogs and cats, slice the animals’ throats open, and then eat their diseased organs – we shouldn’t treat any animal so horribly.”

“Compassion Over Killing’s investigation inside a foie gras factory farm in New York uncovered what can only be described as a torture chamber: birds are grabbed by their necks or wings and a metal pipe is shoved down their throats in order to forcefully pump large quantities of food into their stomachs,” says Cheryl Leahy, general counsel at Compassion Over Killing. “These animals suffer immensely from this force-feeding, and then they are shackled upside-down and slaughtered.”

APRL’s Bryan Pease adds, “Last year’s industry-wide investigation, posted at, shows that foie gras production is just as inhumane as when California’s foie gras ban was passed seven years ago.”

Copies of the lawsuit are available upon request.


Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. with an additional office in Los Angeles. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, litigation, corporate campaigns, public outreach, and other programs. Online at