French definition of 'foie gras'

20 Novembre 2012
Keith Taylor (Verts/ALE) , Yves Cochet (Verts/ALE)


Under Commission Regulation (EC) No 543/2008 (and previous Regulation (EEC) No 1538/91), force-feeding is not a prerequisite for classifying livers as ‘foie gras’. However, since 2005, ‘foie gras’ has been defined in French national law as the liver of a bird fattened by force-feeding.

1. Hence, the French definition prevents any fatty liver obtained by alternative methods to force-feeding from being considered or marketed as ‘foie gras’ in France. How does the Commission intend to lift the obstacle to the marketing of ‘foie gras’ obtained by alternative methods created by such a restrictive definition?

2. A Recommendation from the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes allows force-feeding only where currently practised, under the condition that research on alternative methods is encouraged. How does the Commission intend to ensure that national laws in ‘foie gras’‐producing countries do not jeopardise EU requirements on the development of alternatives to force-feeding in ‘foie gras’ production?


Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
Under Commission Regulation (EC) No 543/2008(1) the term ‘foie gras’ denotes ‘the livers of geese, or of ducks of the species Cairina muschata or Cairina muschata x Anas platyrhynchos which have been fed in such a way as to produce hepatic fatty cellular hypertrophy’. The French law(2) defines ‘foie gras’ as the liver of a bird fattened by force-feeding (gavage).

The Commission will assess whether the French law is in line with the definition of Regulation (EC) No 543/2008 and clarify whether the definition given in the French law would prevent any fatty liver obtained by alternative methods from being considered and hence marketed as ‘foie gras’ in France.

The welfare aspects of foie gras production are covered by Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes(3) and the recommendations of the Council of Europe concerning geese(4) and Muscovy ducks and their hybrids(5).

The recommendations are part of EC law and require countries allowing foie gras production to encourage research on its welfare aspects and on alternative methods which do not include gavage.

(1)    OJ L 157, 17.6.2008.
(3)    OJ L 221,8.8.1998.