France Bleu Gascogne Uncovers Foie Gras Scandal

The practice of gavage, or force-feeding is used to fatten ducks for foie gras. Photo: Wikimedia/Jérôme S

The practice of gavage, or force-feeding is used to fatten ducks for foie gras.
Photo: Wikimedia/Jérôme S

Another possible food scandal came to light last Thursday following a report by France Bleu Gascogne on France Info, overshadowing the European horsemeat scandal.

In a complaint filed on April 16, 2012, five former gaveurs accused Euralis, one of the largest producers of foie gras in the Southwest region of France, of merchandise fraud. The gaveurs, who are responsible for the force-feeding of the ducks, claim that during the five-year period from 2001-2006, sick ducks had passed through their hands without consequence.

The ducks were administered antibiotics, which is prohibited, according to the regulations imposed by the indication géographique protégée (IGP) “Sud-Ouest”, or protected geographical indication. As its intention is to protect the names of quality agricultural products, the IGP enforces strict regulations. In the case of the ducks, any use of antibiotics would automatically disqualify Euralis’s foie gras from the appellation.

Philippe Lapaque, the gaveur whom the media was able to contact, explained that he stopped his work in 2003, “after having seen the trainers of Euralis advising the use of medications on the ducks, which is a forbidden practice”.

To his surprise, Lapaque was informed by France Bleu Gascogne on Thursday afternoon that the case had been classée sans suite, or filed without further investigation. Lapaque believes that the Public Prosecutor’s Department of Pau’s decision reveals a desire to stifle the affair.

The Vice-Prosecutor of Pau explained, however, that the facts presented date from 2001-2006, which renders it impossible to find hard evidence on the slaughter of ducks during the period.

On his blog, Lapaque denounces the contemptible practices, which he can only assume are still in use today. The agribusiness group Lescar, which was solicited in January, asserted that Euralis exercised a “careful inspection destined to assure the perfect traceability of the products.” It recognized the use of antibiotics, but maintained that their use was exceptional. In the cases where antibiotic treatment was administered to an IGP duck, the treatment resulted in a downgrading of the product, the group claims.

Euralis plans to file a formal complaint of defamation against the five gaveurs, the agribusiness group announced on Friday. The company’s association will seek reparations for the significant prejudice caused by the scandal.

 

 

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