U.S. criticizes Russia over meat ban

File Photo of U.S. Dairy Cows

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW. Feb 12 (Interfax) – The United States has criticized the ban Russia imposed on meat imports from February 11 due to ractopamine and says Russia is violating WTO regulations. The Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor says other countries, including WTO members, have also banned imports of U.S. meat produced with ractopamine and Russia is simply following their example.

In a press release issued by the Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the United States was very disappointed with the measures Russia had taken to stop imports of meat from the United States that is produced to the highest safety standards in the world.

They say Russia ignored the results of a study carried out by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), which attests to the safety of animal feed containing ractopamine for livestock and for people that eat meat.

The United States is asking Russia to restore the access of U.S. meat and meat products to its market and to observe its obligations as a WTO member, the release says.

Rosselkhoznadzor Chairman Sergei Dankvert told Interfax that the United States is referring to the WTO in vain because many countries, including WTO members, have imposed a ban on U.S. meat that has been produced with the use of ractopamine. “Why, in these circumstances, has the criticism been addressed to Russia, and not, for example, to China or EU countries, which do not accept products with ractopamine?,” he said.

Rosselkhoznadzor decided to impose the ban based on information about the use of ractopamine in the United States. “This is a kind of precautionary measure and it is envisaged by WTO regulations,” he said. “We will look into the level of risk. If this substance is not researched by us and is not registered than we have every basis and time to study it. As do other WTO countries.”

“Even if Russia was not a WTO member, we would follow the document signed with the United States back in 2006,” Dankvert said. “It says that in mutual trade each country retains the right to protect the life and health of the people, animals and plants in its territory and that the countries should each respect the other’s existing risk evaluation systems and procedures.”

Russia “is certainly not the first country to ban product imports because of ractopamine. And to be more precise we are at the end of the list of such countries and we sincerely hope the rhetoric that is being directed at Russia be directed to the countries that went before us with such a ban,” he said.

The new requirements regarding meat associated with the use of ractopamine affect Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the United States. All countries, except the United States, agreed to provide additional guarantees on import safety. Thus, the Russian agriculture watchdog imposed an import ban on almost all meat from the United States, except for poultry, on February 11.

The U.S. press reports that the United States exports around $500 million worth of beef and pork to Russia annually.

The use of ractopamine is banned in 160 countries, including the 27 European Union countries and China.