Russia's requirement concerning imported U.S. meat dictated by safety concern, not politics - official

Russia's demand that pork and beef imported from the U.S. should not contain ractopamine, a feed additive making meat lean, has been dictated by food safety concerns, not politics, says Gennady Onishchenko, the head of the Russian consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor and the chief public health official.

In commenting on remarks by U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) analysts suggesting that this demand is Russia's political revenge for the adoption of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act by the U.S. Senate, Onishchenko said in an interview with Interfax, "Ractopamine has been banned by 160 countries, including the 27 European Union countries and China."

"In Russia, there is no national norm of ractopamine content level, and it is not included in the register of drugs the use of which is allowed on Russian territory," he said.

"I can only regret that U.S. Meat Export Federation analysts lack even a bit of fantasy to list the 27 European Union countries, China and the other 167 countries among the opponents of the Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. Senate just because they ban the use of this drug, the safety of which is really doubtful in scientific terms," Onishchenko said.

Ractopamine is a drug that promotes muscle growth and milk yield in animals and "is not properly examined in terms of its possible negative effects on human health," Onishchenko said.

"For instance, the use of ractopamine involves the decrease of body weight, the impairment of the reproductive function and more frequent instances of mastitis in milking cattle, which dramatically worsens milk quality and safety," Onishchenko said.

The 35th session of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's and the World Health Organization's Codex Alimentarius Commission in Rome in July saw a bitter discussion on the maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine in animal food products, he said.

"At this session, contrary to the Codex Alimentarius Commission's charter, which requires that MRL standards for food products be established through a consensus, the U.S. delegation literally rammed a decision in favor of the U.S. national ractopamine standards by a majority of two votes," Onishchenko said.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation said earlier that exports of pork and beef to Russia could be stopped starting Dec. 8. Some of the federation analysts described Russia's requirement concerning ractopamine as a response to the Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 6.

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