California Proposition 12 stay extended to allow sell-through of certain pork products

A state court has issued an order staying enforcement of California’s Proposition 12 for noncompliant pork in the supply chain as of July 1, 2023, permitting it to be sold through in California until December 31, 2023.

California’s Proposition 12 imposes minimum confinement standards for egg-laying hens, veal calves, and pigs used to create shell eggs, liquid eggs, whole veal meat, and whole pork meat sold in California. The law also restricts the sale of these products in the state if they are derived from animals not raised in compliance with the state standards. The Sacramento Superior Court in California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce v. Ross (Case No. 34-2021-80003765) had previously stayed enforcement of Proposition 12 for whole pork meat until July 1, 2023. With the end of the stay approaching, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) issued guidance suggesting it would not take action against noncompliant pork in inventory as of July 1, 2023. The guidance, however, left unanswered several key questions, including what it meant for product to be in inventory as of July 1.

The court’s June 16 order in California Hispanic addresses these concerns. The order (modifying a November 28, 2022 order) states that the previously issued injunction against enforcement expires as scheduled on July 1, 2023, except for product already in commerce. The order states that noncompliant whole pork meat already in the stream of commerce and in the possession of an “end user” or “pork distributor” (as both terms are defined in 3 CCR 1322), or an FSIS-inspected establishment, may be sold, transported, or donated through December 31, 2023. To qualify for the exemption, the end user, pork distributor, or FSIS-inspected establishment must self certify that it or another end-user, pork distributor, or FSIS-inspected establishment possessed the product as of July 1, 2023. 

The order thus allows for continued sell-through and distribution of noncompliant pork produced before July 1, so long as the product is in commerce by July 1. The order does not provide any allowances for product produced after July 1, 2023, nor does it provide any allowance for pigs on the ground but not yet harvested before July 1, 2023.

Notably, by extending in limited form the current stay order, the court’s order enjoins enforcement of Proposition 12 by any party, whether it be the state or a private litigant. This maintains the injunction prohibiting private parties from enforcing Proposition 12 with respect to these products. 

The stay lasts through the end of the year, meaning any product exempted under the stay must be sold through or shipped back out of California by the end of 2023.  At the end of the year, the case will automatically be dismissed with prejudice, and the plaintiffs waive the ability to seek any further relief from Proposition 12 enforcement.  This signals the extension is likely the last one under this case.

Next steps

The court’s stay order provides time-limited flexibility for companies seeking to transition to Proposition 12-compliant pork supply chains. 

It remains to be seen whether a court hearing a challenge to Massachusetts’s similar law, known as Question 3, will grant comparable relief for pork sold in Massachusetts.



Authored by Brian Eyink and Connie Potter.


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