Calif. Meat, Poultry Deceptive Packaging Law Barred

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By Julie A. Steinberg

Feb. 16 — Federal law governing meat and poultry products bars California's laws against “nonfunctional slack fill,” or empty space between a product and its packaging that doesn't serve certain specified purposes, the Ninth Circuit said.

As applied to meat and poultry products, California's provisions are expressly preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said Feb. 12 in an unpublished opinion.

The appeals court affirmed a permanent injunction against enforcement of the state's nonfunctional slack fill provisions against Del Real LLC, a producer of Mexican heat-and-serve meat and poultry products.

Different or Additional

The state's provisions against false or misleading containers are “in addition to” or “different than” the federal statutes' general prohibitions against containers “filled as to be misleading,” the court said.

The court said it's previously interpreted the legislative history of the federal meat and poultry laws as showing Congressional intent to create a uniform national labeling standard.

Additionally, the court said by giving the Secretary of Agriculture the option to issue standards governing container fill but not mandating such regulations, “Congress intended to allow meat and poultry packaging to be subject to less specific regulation than other types of product packaging.”

Dorsey & Whitney, LLP represented Del Real LLC.

The California attorney general's office represented the government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeffrey D. Koelemay at