Russia plans ban on U.S. beef, pork

The United States is strongly objecting to Russia’s decision to ban all imports of U.S. beef, pork and turkey because it could have traces of the feed additive ractopamine, a growth stimulant to make meat leaner.

“These actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade relationship,” said Andrea Mead, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

“They are not consistent with international standards and appear to be inconsistent with Russia’s WTO (World Trade Organization) commitments.”

Russia’s Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) said in a statement it would impose a temporary ban on U.S. beef, pork and turkey starting Feb. 11.

The move has been in the works for weeks and appears to one of several tit-for-tat moves taken by Moscow since the U.S. Congress passed legislation in December to punish Russian human rights violators.

Ractopamine is banned in some countries because of concerns that residues could remain in the meat and cause health problems, despite scientific evidence it is safe.

Canada, which also uses ractopamine, avoided the U.S.’s fate.

Russia’s surveillance service said on its website that Canadian beef and pork will continue to be imported following assurances from Canadian Food Inspection Agency chief veterinary officer Ian Alexander that the country’s meat exports comply with Russian requirements.

Alexander said Canada has no intentions to issue veterinary certificates for meat that doesn’t comply. Future shipments will include documents confirming the meat is from animals that haven’t been feed ractopamine.

The CFIA was unable to provide further information by press time.

Last month Russia suspended pork imports from two Canadian plants, one in Ontario and one in Quebec because of ractopamine residue in meat.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is vigorously opposing the move.

“We … continue to call on Russia to suspend these unjustified measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products,” Mead said.

Russia received 7.5 percent of its imported beef and 11.4 percent of its imported pork from the United States from January to September 2012.

“Although Russia is not the largest export market for U.S. beef and pork, it’s a very valuable export market,” said Gary Mickelson, spokesperson for Tyson Food Inc., the largest U.S. meat company.

“We’d rather not speculate about a halt in business to Russia, but we’re hopeful the U.S. and Russian government can quickly resolve this matter,” Mickelson said.

Russia imported 1.25 million tonnes of red meat, excluding offal, worth $4.47 billion from non-former Soviet Union countries in 2011, according to official customs data.

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