Inspectors Widen Ban on US Pork Imports

RUSSIA - The Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service widened its ban on US pork imports on Thursday to include four more plants and could close its market entirely to the United States should Washington fail to observe quality standards.
calendar icon 11 December 2009
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The watchdog said the latest ban would apply from 18 December and include two plants belonging to major meat firm Smithfield Foods, and Sergei Dankvert, the watchdog’s head, said more bans could follow.

Separately, the head of an industry lobby said US pork producers could face a complete halt in supplies to Russia due to delays in agreeing on meat safety certification.

“US imports may halt for a certain period of time because until now a mutually acceptable veterinary certificate has not been agreed,” National Meat Association head Sergei Yushin said.

“We are not closing Russia to US imports, but the technical issue of the certificate exists,” he said.

Russia, among the five biggest export markets for US pork, has had several trade disputes with Washington over meat and poultry supplies in recent years, according to The Moscow Times. Moscow insists all bans are on health grounds, whereas some US observers have called them political.

Russia’s latest ban applies to Smithfield’s slaughterhouses in Monmouth, Iowa and Clinton, North Carolina. Also banned are the Pork King Packing plant in Marengo, Illinois and Hatfield Quality Meats in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

The watchdog, cited the presence of the antibiotic oxytetracycline as the reason for the latest ban — the same problem that led it to ban imports from seven other US plants earlier in December.

Mr Dankvert said US suppliers in general were not meeting Russian standards. “The US official [Food Safety Inspection] Service has said it would not observe Russian food safety standards, without giving any explanation,” Dankvert said.

“Therefore, since the end of October, we have intensified our monitoring of US pork products,” he said. “If we do blanket monitoring, or intensive monitoring, then the number of candidates for bans will increase.”

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