It is a truth universally acknowledged that an avocado in California must be better than avocados in other states.
|Image courtesy ollesvenson.|
Or at least, that's part of the story.
The more oil an avocado has, the better its flavor. Since 1925, California law--Section 792 of the Agricultural Code, to be exact--prohibited the transportation or sale in California of avocados which contain "less than 8 per cent of oil, by weight . . . excluding the skin and seed."
This upset avocado growers in Florida, because they played the rules by a different game: federal marketing guidelines that made no reference to oil content. They sued to prevent California from enforcing the 8% law, but ultimately lost in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now, the avocado case is famous, and is included in Constitutional Law textbooks as an example of Supreme Court jurisprudence on preemption. Preemption is the idea that, if a federal law conflicts with a state or local law, the federal law controls. But in the Florida Lime & Avocado Growers case, the Supreme Court upheld the California law, stating that the federal law provided a floor, but not a ceiling, for what state laws can do. The California law was free to be stricter than the federal law so long as it did not directly conflict with it.
In other news, please don't give a California law enforcement officer reasonable belief that you are in unlawful possession of avocados:
45038. Upon reasonable belief that a person is in unlawful possession of avocados regulated by this chapter, the avocados may be seized by the director or any peace officer and shall be turned over to the custody of the director.
- Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132 (1963) (free on Findlaw)
- California Food and Agricultural Code
- Food Regulation: Law, Science, Policy, and Practice by Neal D. Fortin
- Proceedings of the AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR HORTICULTURAL SCIENCE 1957 69:217-220, Effect of Fruit Position and Weight on Percentage of Oil in Lula Avocados in Florida, T. T. HATTON, JR., M. J. SOULE, JR., and JOHN POPENOE, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, Homestead and Orlando., Florida
- Lakeland Ledger article about proceedings below: Avocado Oil Content Upheld
- Chicago Tribune article: Florida vs. California
- John Shepherd and Gary Bender, A History of the Avocado Industry in California, California Avocado Society 2001 Yearbook 85: 29-50
- University of California Extension - Harvesting Avocados