Alexei Alexeyenko, press secretary of the Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, said recently that as long as the US is not ready for constructive dialogue on the issue, the export of meat products from the US to Russia will be restricted.
“This is a safety issue. There can be no compromise. The EU, Russia and China, among other countries, voted against the decision by the International Food Code to allow some residual content of ractopamine in meat,” said Alexeyenko. “This was the first time such a serious food safety issue was resolved by a simple vote.
“Only the US and countries that are economically dependent on it support a position [in favour of the safety of ractopamine],” he added, pointing out that ractopamine is prohibited in 160 countries all over the world and allowed in only 26.
“As scientific data indicates, ractopamine can cause significant changes in the human body. It is a beta adrenostimulator, and we have many people with heart disease who take medicines with exactly the opposite effect.”
Rosselkhoznadzor representatives have emphasised that there has been an absence of constructive dialogue with the US on this issue.
“The US doesn’t understand that, without certain actions, the ban on meat imports, which is harmful for the country’s meat industry, is not going to go away. While they refuse to negotiate, they continue to lose money,” said Russian agricultural analyst Eugene Gerden.
Russia’s chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko added that the US actually has the ability to supply ractopamine-free meat to Russia.
“If meat without ractopamine is shipped to Europe, then they actually have such meat. We feel that [the US] is considering us as a third-grade country, where they can sell questionable products,” he said.
Pressure on the US to reconsider its stance on ractopamine increased last week, when China notified the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) of its intention to implement new enforcement measures for its zero tolerance policy for ractopamine residues in US pork exports.
In a recent statement on its website, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) warned that in order to meet Russian and Chinese zero-tolerance policies, US producers would be forced to segregate meat from animals that have been fed ractopamine from those that have not, which would add extra costs to packers in addition to the losses incurred by producers who chose not to use the drugs.
It admitted that the loss of Russian and Chinese markets could lead to big financial losses for US industry, and pointed out that other markets, such as Taiwan and the EU, also have ractopamine import restrictions in place. However, it defended science-based trade, stressing that the quick adoption of new technologies such as ractopamine had allowed US exporters to improve efficiencies and productivity and meet customers’ needs.
“Russia’s ban on residues of beta agonists in imported meat brings into clear focus the dilemma that arises when our support for science-based trade and meeting the demands of our customers collide with a foreign country’s non-science-based import requirements,” it said.
USMEF said that exports to Russia were only likely to resume if the UK and Russian governments could agree a programme under which the USDA certified ractopamine residue-free exports. “Many in the industry are concerned that agreeing to such a program for Russia sets a precedent that could be followed by other countries,” it added.
“This is why it is so important for the US Government to continue to defend the principle of science-based trade and to press other governments to respect international scientific opinion on the safety and low risk of these compounds when properly utilised.”