Russia may bench Canadian, U.S. meat over ractopamine

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A Russian watchdog may impose a temporary ban on some U.S. and Canadian beef and pork products from Feb. 4 because it says some of them contain ractopamine.

Russia’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service, Rosselkhoznadzor, said both countries were still delivering meat to Russia which did not comply with a requirement by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, partners in a three-country customs union, that meat be free of residues from the feed additive ractopamine.

"Rosselkhoznadzor is especially concerned about the import of chilled meat products to Russia," the service said in an English-language statement on its website.

The fact that chilled pork and beef arrived in the market before the laboratory test results for ractopamine came back made the situation worse, it added.

"Lack of proper regulation on these issues can result in imposition of temporary restrictions on import of above-mentioned products to Russia from Feb. 4, (of the) current year."

Ractopamine, fed to animals to accelerate growth and make their meat leaner, is approved and sold in Canada as a feed premix for hog and turkey producers under the name Paylean 20, and as a premix for finishing beef cattle under the name Optaflexx 100.

The United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius Commission last year established global food safety standards on acceptable daily intake (ADI) and maximum residue levels (MRLs) for the drug. However, countries such as China have banned the drug’s use amid concerns that traces of the drug could persist.

Ractopamine’s effects may include toxicity and other exposure risks, such as behavioural changes and cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, reproductive and endocrine problems, according to U.S. groups now lobbying that country’s Food and Drug Administration for domestic limits on the drug.

The Russian service said U.S. and Canadian regulators had failed to respond to requests for information on measures taken to prevent deliveries to Russia of meat containing ractopamine.

Canadian pork shippers have promised to comply with the Russian policy on ractopamine.

Rosselkhoznadzor said Canadian volumes were expected to be free of ractopamine by Feb. 28, but it had had no assurances from the U.S.

Russia stepped up testing of U.S. and Canadian beef and pork imports in December as traces of ractopamine continued to appear in consignments of meat from those countries after a warning was issued early in 2012.

But the service had said imports continued despite the testing regime.

– Reporting for Reuters by Melissa Akin in Moscow.

Related stories:
Russia suspends two Canadian pork packers, Jan. 12, 2013
Pork shippers to meet Russia’s new requirement, Dec. 20, 2012
Codex standard near for Paylean, Optiflexx premixes, July 6, 2012