Russia suspends US meat imports over use of feed additive

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack argued that Russia has disregarded scientific studies that show that meat imports meet the highest safety standards.  

But Russian officials have been threatening to ban U.S. meat imports unless they could be certified free of the animal feed additive ractopamine, which U.S. trade officials say is safe. 

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"Russia has disregarded the extensive and expert scientific studies conducted by the international food safety standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), which has repeatedly concluded that animal feed containing the additive ractopamine is completely safe for livestock and for humans that consume their meat," Kirk and Vilsack said in a statement. 

"Russia’s failure to adopt the Codex standard raises questions about its commitment to the global trading system."

U.S. officials said Russia moved to the ban on all U.S. beef, pork, turkey and other meat products after repeated requests to discuss the safety of ractopamine.

"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," they said. 

Russia joined the WTO in August after a nearly 19-year effort to join the trade group. Congress provided for permanent normal trade relations in December. 

But the decision by lawmakers to tack on a human-rights provision that punishes Russian officials for their involvement in the death of whistleblower lawyer Sergei Magnitsky has, some trade experts say, led to political backlash from Russia. 

Shortly after President Obama signed the legislation lawmakers in Moscow voted to ban U.S. families from adopting Russian children.