Thursday, August 24, 2006

Restaurants Defy Chicago's Foie Gras Ban

I've been gone this week, but wanted to do a round-up of news on the Chicago foie gras ban which went into effect earlier in the week. Tuesday, August 22, was the last day it was legal to sell the delicacy in the city of Chicago. All day, there was a flurry of news reports, chef press conferences, law suit filings, political posturing, and menu reviews.

*Slashfood reports that Chicago Mayor Daley has said he won't enforce the law. They also report that Daley had the chance to veto the legislation and didn't. Certainly, he has bigger battles to fight with the city-county council, but it's frustrating he missed this opportunity to stop Chicago's new penchant for legislating protections from evils such as transfat and big-box stores. This law was political posturing at its worst. There are no innocent parties here -- the foie gras ban passed the city-county council earlier this summer on a vote of 48-1.

*The Illinois Restaurant Association and Allen Sternweiller of The New American Cafe have filed an injunction and suit to overturn the ban. Additionally, reports from the ground are that many restaurants are serving the liver in open defiance either giving it away, calling it a "garnish", or selling it anyway. Others are finding a way to dress up other foods. (Tru is serving a "foie gras" made with chicken livers which is going a bit far -- it's either foie gras or it's not. Chicken livers can make fine pate, but it's not the same.) The Chicago Tribune supposedly has a list of restaurants serving the fatty treat, but it's trapped behind a registration system that requires you to list personal info and agree to spam. Rumor also has it that the National Restaurant Association will be part of the law suit, but I couldn't find a credible cite.

* Enforcement will be lax relying on citizen complaints (from the International Times Herald):

Tim Hadac, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health, which, unlike the Police Department, is responsible for enforcing the ban, said that although the law went into effect Tuesday, the city would begin enforcing it Wednesday.

City officials will respond to citizen complaints, Hadac said, first sending a warning letter to restaurants, then demanding a fine - from $250 to $500 - for second offenses.

* And last but not least, Kate at Accidental Hedonist has a spot-on post on Food Nannies and why we, as citizens, do not benefit when our government is co-opted by special interest groups (in this case, PETA). How can we learn to govern ourselves if a government must tell us what we cannot eat? While many have potrayed this situation as merely a class issue for a few foodies or weatlhy people who care about foie gras, it's important for all levels of society. The most dangerous part of this ban was the precendent it set. The Chicago city council has already banned transfat. You shouldn't be a bit surprised if you see them targeting fatty, calorie intense fast food next. Do you think it's right that they should be able to ban Burger King from operating in the Chicago city limits? No matter how you feel personally about foie gras (or Burger King burgers, for that matter), her post is a must read if you truly value your food and freedom.

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