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Russia expands U.S. pork bans, threatens full market closure

By Tom Johnston | Pork Mag

Russia on Thursday expanded its ban on U.S. pork imports to include four more plants and said it may close its market entirely if Washington doesn't comply with its quality standards, according to a report by Reuters out of Moscow.

The latest action, effective Dec. 18, includes two more Smithfield Foods slaughterhouses, one in Monmouth, Iowa, and one in Clinton, N.C., the report said. That makes seven Smithfield-owned pork facilities banned since late November. (See Russia bans five U.S. pork plants on antibiotic findings, Meatingplace, Dec. 10, 2009.)

The other two plants suspended in the latest ban, according to Reuters, are Pork King Packing in Marengo, Ill., and Hatfield Quality Meats in Hatfield, Penn. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service had yet to update its list of eligible exporters to reflect the reported changes.

Russia cited findings of oxytetracycline as the reason for the latest bans.

More bans to come?

Sergei Dankvert, head of Russia's farm produce watchdog, told Reuters U.S. exporters were generally not meeting Russian specifications.

"[USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service] has said it would not observe Russian food safety standards, without giving any explanation," he is quoted as saying. "Therefore, since the end of October we have intensified our monitoring of U.S. pork products. If we do blanket monitoring, or intensive monitoring, then the number of candidates for bans will increase."

Meanwhile, Sergei Yushin, head of Russia's National Meat Association, said U.S. pork might be banned entirely by Russia unless Washington agrees on meat safety certification.

"U.S. imports may halt for a certain period of time, as until now a mutually acceptable veterinary certificate has not been agreed," Yushin is quoted as saying.

FSIS officials could not be reached for comment before deadline.

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