A Russian ban on U.S. beef, pork and turkey imports coming into effect this month is likely to last for a long time, Gennady Onishchenko, the head of Russia's consumer safety watchdog, was quoted as saying by Interfax on Monday.
"Apparently the ban on practically all U.S. meat and meat products will be long term," Onishchenko was quoted as saying.
He said the ban, announced by Russia's Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Surveillance Service after it said the U.S. had failed to show the products free of growth stimulant ractopamine, would be lifted if imports came only from ractopamine-free producers, reports Reuters.
Russia decided to ban imports of U.S. beef, pork and turkey starting on Feb. 11 because it was concerned about traces of the feed additive ractopamine in this meat. The move to ban U.S. meat imports worth over $500 million may also be an effort to help domestic producers withstand an influx of cheap meat after Russia joined the World Trade Organization.
The United States has called for Russia to immediately lift the ban and honor the commitments it made last year when it joined the WTO.
"The United States is very disappointed that Russia has taken action to suspend all imports of U.S. meat, which is produced to the highest safety standards in the world," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a joint statement.
While some countries have banned the additive out of concern that trace elements could remain in the meat and cause health problems, the U.N. food safety body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, in July said the additive had "no impact on human health" if residue stays within recommended levels.
"Russia's failure to adopt the Codex standard raises questions about its commitment to the global trading system," Kirk and Vilsack said.
"Despite repeated U.S. requests to discuss the safety of ractopamine, Russia has refused to engage in any constructive dialogue and instead has simply suspended U.S. meat imports. The United States calls on Russia to restore market access for U.S. meat and meat products immediately and to abide by its obligations as a Member of the World Trade Organization."