ASF-infected meat detected in Russian plants

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Food safety experts claim Russia needs to rewrite its meat traceability laws
Food safety experts claim Russia needs to rewrite its meat traceability laws
Meat products infected with African swine fever (ASF) have been detected on retail shelves in at least two Russian regions, Pskov Oblast and Khabarovsk Krai, according to Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor.

The incident in Khabarovsk Krai is considered to be of greatest concern, as the region is part of Russia’s far east, which is still recognised as ASF-free. As yet, no outbreaks of the disease have been confirmed officially in this part of the country.

Olga Smolina, a spokeswoman for the veterinary service of Khabarovsk Krai, said the ASF genome had been revealed during laboratory tests on four tonnes of sausages. Another 10 tonnes are suspected to be infected with the virus as well, she added.

All the products were delivered from a meat processing plant in Moscow, said Smolina, suggesting there was little threat the virus would penetrate the region.

In Pskov Oblast, Rosselkhoznadzor confirmed the presence of ASF in processed products on 2 October, but so far, no further details on the incident have been made available.

An entire system under scrutiny

This is not the first time that the disease has been found in meat products in the Pskov Oblast. In August, a row broke out, when Russia’s veterinary inspectors identified the ASF genome in a batch of chicken sausages at a local prison. 

A brief investigation showed the products had been falsified, according to the head of Rosselkhoznadzor Sergei Dankvert, who also admitted that the entire traceability system in the Russian meat industry needed revision, as it was not very reliable.

In particular, Dankvert said, due to reduced administrative pressure on the meat industry, Rosselkhoznadzor simply could not say what raw materials were used for the production of sausages, while, without this pressure, it was impossible to guarantee the products were safe for consumers.

Dankvert expressed concerns about “a slow process​ [aimed to strengthening the control] within the Eurasian Economic Union​”, and suggested that Russia should change its own veterinary rules, not within the parameters of the union, as stipulated by the current intergovernmental agreement.

New legislation on the way

Meanwhile, Russia’s sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor is preparing a new bill “on falsification​”, which, among other elements, should introduce criminal liability for meat producers that use raw materials of unknown origin and do not detail them on the label.

Anna Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor, recently said the bill was welcomed by almost all the relevant government agencies, but added that it was still “facing some resistance​”.

It is believed the new legislation, enforcing stricter liabilities, should reduce fraud in the domestic dairy and meat markets in Russia and should also contribute to the fight against ASF on retail shelves. 

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