A federal court upheld a statewide ban on the sale of the delicacy made from the livers of force-fed duck or goose -- foie gras means "fat liver" in French -- in a ruling handed down Friday.
The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the ban was plain in meaning and not in violation of the Constitution.
The law, which went into effect in July 2012, prohibits the sale of products made from birds forced to eat an abnormally large amount of food to enlarge their livers. It was challenged by out-of-state foie gras producers and California restaurants, who claimed the ban was too vague and regulated interstate commerce.
While the Assn. des Eleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Quebec, HVFG and Hot's Restaurant Group said the ban could be interpreted to cover all products from force-fed ducks, including meat and jackets made from down, the court disagreed.
"The plain meaning of [the law] is that it applies only to a product that is produced by force feeding a bird to enlarge its liver," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the panel.
The law was meant to "prevent complicity in a practice that it deemed cruel to animals," Pregerson wrote.
Neither did the law unconstitutionally regulate interstate commerce, the 9th Circuit said. It argued that laws in California applied, "regardless of where the force-feeding occurred."
"Otherwise, California entities could obtain foie gras produced out of state and sell it in California," the ruling said.
While the companies could appeal the suit higher, the federal court's decision could be the last word on the ban. If the case were to be remanded to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the state would likely seek its dismissal.