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Russia Reacts to Excessive Antibiotics in Pork

After what they said was the discovery of  excessive antibiotics in some U.S. and European pork, Russian officials announced a ban on imports from two Smithfield processing facilities and plants in other countries.

Yevgeniy Khorishko, press secretary at the Russian embassy in Washington D.C., said the pork imports have been barred temporarily since Sept. 8 because of   “excessive presence of antibiotics.”  The two plants’ export licenses will be officially revoked on Sept. 28, however, any product shipped prior to that date will be accepted into Russia.  After the 28th,  pork from both plants as well as meat from 12 facilities in Europe will be barred from Russia.  The ban affects facilities in Germany, Spain, Holland and France, among other nations.

One of the affected U.S. facilities, located in Tar Heel, North Carolina, is by volume the world’s largest pork plant. The second American plant is in Clinton, New York.

 Neil Gaffney, a spokesman for the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service, confirmed that there have been “drug residue issues” with meat from the two American facilities.

“Once FSIS receives additional information from Russia, FSIS will work with industry to investigate the findings,” he told Meatingplace in an email.

The bans come after a year of controversy between the United States and Russia over poultry exports.  Earlier this summer, Food Safety News reported on Russian President Dimitry Medvedev’s agreement to lift an all-out ban on U.S. poultry imports that had been in effect over Russia’s concerns about the use of chlorine in processing chicken meat.

Russia now is re-evaluating U.S. poultry facilities and renewing export licenses.  The Salmonella egg outbreak in the United States earlier this summer further  complicated relations between the two countries.  The Russian government released a statement explaining that the egg recall increased its concerns about the safety standards of chicken products produced in the U.S.

Chicken is are not the only food the Russians have expressed concerns about, and this is not the first time they have halted shipments of pork.  Last year they declined pork  from a number of different U.S. facilities because of excessive antibiotics in the meat.  Those restrictions were eased in March.

Licensing issues, combined with the earlier import ban, resulted in a 64 percent decrease in pork exports from the U.S. to Russia during the first six months of this year, compared with the same period of 2009.  Russia had been the United State’s fourth-largest pork export market.  It dropped to sixth-largest this year.

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