WASHINGTON, February 11 (RIA Novosti) The US government on Monday called on Russia to lift a ban on US beef and pork imports containing the livestock feed additive ractopamine, which went into effect earlier in the day.
“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,” said US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a joint statement.”
“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.
Russia says ractopamine is unsafe and that it is imposing 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 said the ban is less about food safety concerns and more about reducing competition for the Russian meat industry.
“This is not about food safety issues, this is about protecting the domestic product,” said National Pork Producers Council spokesman Dave Warner.
“Pork is a pretty important industry for Russia, so this is about reducing the competition for their domestic pork industry,” Warner said.
Comparable quality of beef and pork products without ractopamine cost more to produce.
“Obviously we want to get back to the market quickly, it was a red hot market for most of 2012, there’s a lot of demand for beef and pork in Russia,” said US Meat Export Federation (MEF) spokesman Joe Schuele in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Schuele said last year the US exported just over 80,000 metric tons (88,183 tons) of beef to Russia at a value of $307 million, and more than 99,000 metric tons (109,126 tons) of pork at a value of $282 million.
“Ractopamine is a feed ingredient that’s been safely used since it was introduced in 1999, and there have been no confirmed human health reports in that time,” said Colleen Parr Dekker, a spokeswoman for Elanco, which produces the additive under the brand names Paylean and Optaflex.
“We’re very disappointed in the ban, given that there are international standards to confirm the safety of ractopamine. We would certainly look forward to working with the Russian government to answer any concerns they may have,” she added.