In some regions, this figure reached 68%, while in the region around Moscow the level was 54%, it added.
Meat fraud in Russia is believed to have reached unprecedented heights, as pork products have been sold under the guise of beef, and some sausage manufacturers have provided misleading information on product labels in terms of the raw materials used, according to the Russian veterinary body.
In a study conducted in February, independent consumer-protection organisation Roscontrol discovered that some products labelled as beef were actually made of pork and, in some cases, even contained poultry DNA. Earlier, Roscontrol estimated the share of fraudulent products in the domestic sausage market in Russia to be at 75%.
Meat giants criticised
Several Russian meat giants found themselves coming under fire from Roscontrol, following research posted on its website on 13 February. Roscontrol tested samples of chicken hearts in six of the country’s largest poultry producers and found most of them were substandard.
Russia’s largest meat producer Miratorg and one of the largest poultry producers Belaya Ptiza were reportedly found to be selling poultry products containing E.coli and excessive levels of antibiotic residue, according to information from Roscontrol’s website.
Products from Belaya Ptiza were also reported to be infected with listeria, while products from some smaller companies were also found to contain salmonella, said Roscontrol.
However, Irina Arkatova, a senior expert at Roscontrol, noted products from Miratorg passed its tests, because Russian legislation did not regulate the presence of E.coli and antibiotic residues in poultry by-products, while the screening methods used during the research didn’t establish the presence of these elements in dangerous concentrations.
Call to limit use of antibiotics
Shortly after the publication of Roscontrol’s research, Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who is running for presidency in the 2018 presidential elections, promised that his political party would formulate a bill aimed at tightening controls over the use of dangerous substances in meat products, as well as antibiotics in animal feed.
Zhirinovsky claimed that large poultry farms in Russia were feeding their stock with an “enormous number of antibiotics” in order to avoid losses from possible epidemics. He called for the introduction of new standards on the use of feed drugs and granting the federal sanitary service, Rospotrebnadzor, additional authority to inspect compliance at production facilities.
Speaking about the sub-standard meat, Zhirinovsky added that, according to Roscontrol, Russia “loses nearly 20,000 people per year” from nearly three million food-borne diseases registered annually in the country. He suggested this was one of the reasons why Russian citizens had lower life expectancy than the European average.