MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) - US claims that the livestock feed additive ractopamine is safe are not convincing, Russia’s chief state sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko said on Tuesday.
Russia began a temporary ban on US beef and pork imports Monday over what it says is a failure by the US food safety watchdog to guarantee that these shipments are free of ractopamine.
The US government on Monday called on Russia to lift the ban. “The United States is very disappointed that Russia has taken action to suspend all imports of US meat, which is produced to the highest safety standards in the world,” US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a joint statement on Monday.
Onishchenko said: “We are taking that opinion into account, but it does not suit us. It is not enough convincing from the viewpoint of scientific credibility and methodology.”
The joint statement by Kirk and Vilsack also ran: “Despite repeated US requests to discuss the safety of ractopamine, Russia has refused to engage in any constructive dialogue and instead has simply suspended US meat imports.”
“The United States calls on Russia to restore market access for US meat and meat products immediately and to abide by its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization,” they added on Monday.
“They are entitled to think like that, but we have a position of our own,” Onishchenko said in response to the Americans’ statement.
Russia’s federal food safety agency warned the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil in late 2012 that their meat imports could be halted should the shipments contain the additive.
Russia says ractopamine is unsafe and that imposed the ban on US meat imports containing the food additive, because the US Food Safety and Inspection Service failed to guarantee that beef and pork shipments would be free of ractopamine.
The body that sets food safety standards for the United Nations, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, allows a measurable amount of ractopamine at 10 parts per billion, while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard is 50 parts per billion.
Animal rights groups have said that ractopamine, which is used to stimulate livestock growth and make meat leaner, is prohibited in about 160 countries.
In an interview with RIA Novosti, a leading association of US pork producers has said the ban is less about food safety concerns and more about reducing competition for the Russian meat industry.
The dispute comes at a time of increasingly strained relations between the United States and Russia over human rights and international adoptions.
Washington angered the Russian government last year by introducing the so-called Magnitsky Act, a law imposing sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. The law was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail in 2009.
Russia responded by banning US citizens from adopting Russian children and prohibiting politically active Russian nongovernmental organizations from accepting financing from the United States.
Russia has denied that the meat ban is connected to the current friction in bilateral ties.
However, late Monday afternoon, the country's food safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, said the demand for ractopamine documenation from Brazil, Canada and Mexico could be withdrawn if inspections show that these nations' meat exports to Russia match the same criteria as exports to the European Union.