Russia has introduced tough new measures to tackle imports of meat from livestock that have been given the growth promoting drug ractopamine.
The new rules, introduced by Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) on December 7, mean that all pork and beef exports from Canada, the US, Mexico and Brazil will have to be tested for ractopamine before being shipped to Russia, with all consignments accompanied by a veterinary certificate guaranteeing the absence of the drug.
Consignments without a such certificate will only be admitted following laboratory testing by Russian veterinary services.
“We will check the imported meat products in our labs. If ractopamine is detected, all shipments of meat will be sent back. This scheme will operate during the ‘transition’ period, which is likely to last until the end of January,” said Rosselkhoznadzor press secretary Alexei Alekseenko.
“During this period, the veterinary services of the supplying countries must create a system to laboratory test products for the presence of ractopamine, and send the results of these tests, indicating the absence of ractopamine, with each shipment of products intended for Russia and other countries of the Customs Union.”
The US and Canada immediately asked Russia not to introduce the measures – or at least delay their implementation. According to experts, the move could jeopardise exports of US beef and pork worth around US$500m a year. The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported there were more than 210 containers of beef and pork from the US, worth US$20m, on their way to Russia, which had not undergone pre-export laboratory testing, and would therefore be prevented from entering the country.
Several Russian and foreign experts have suggested that the measures could be a Russian policy response to the recently passed Magnitsky Act in the US, which imposes financial and visa sanctions on a number of Russian officials on human rights grounds.
However, the heads of Rosselkhoznadzor said these claims were indefensible, and pointed out that it had repeatedly expressed an intention to limit the supply of meat with ractopamine to the Russian market.