News update:Oct 20, 2011

US Senators say Russian food claims “baseless”

Russia is making bogus food safety claims to curtail or eliminate US poultry, pork and beef imports, say 2 top agricultural leaders in the US Senate in a letter to President Obama, reports Food Safety News.

Democrat Blanche Lincoln and Republican Saxby Chambliss, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urged Obama to "fully engage all resources to address these agricultural trade issues, especially with respect to US exports of pork, poultry, and beef."

The letter was reportedly sent on the eve of talks between US trade officials and the Russian Ministries of Health and Agriculture.

Lincoln said the food safety-related reasons the Russians are using to restrict US imports of meat and poultry are "baseless."

"While the actions against our exports have taken different forms, they all erect non-scientific barriers to trade," write Lincoln and Chambliss. "First, if left unchallenged they would have the effect of keeping US products almost entirely out of Russian markets. Second, while the Russian government's varied justifications centered on sanitary measures, analyses or guidelines of international agencies such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) or the Codex Alimentarius do not support Russia's conclusions. As such, attempts to manage the flow of imports raise questions regarding Russia's willingness and readiness to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).”

"With respect to poultry, as of January 1, 2010, the government of Russia has determined that it will no longer accept for import poultry that was processed with the use of chlorine rinses, even though numerous studies and most recognized scientific bodies worldwide have found this practice to be entirely safe.  It is also our understanding that a significant number of poultry processors in Russia use the same technique. Since almost all US poultry plants use chlorine rinses, this action has essentially closed their market to our product."

Beef, pork, and poultry exports to Russia in 2008, the latest year for which full data is available, totaled $1.3 bln. US exports to Russia in 2008 totaled $9.3 bln, much less than the $26.8 bln imported from Russia by the US. Pork and poultry have been among the largest US exports to Russia.

Source: Food Safety News

Natalie Berkhout

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