Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today confirmed Russia's suspension of all U.S. meat imports on concerns of ractopamine, noting the U.S. is "very disappointed" with the decision.
"Russia has disregarded the extensive and expert scientific studies conducted by the international food safety standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, 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 wrote in a joint statement Tuesday.
The trade suspension comes just months after Russia's accession into the World Trade Organization, which recognizes Codex approval of ractopamine.
"Russia's failure to adopt the Codex standard raises questions about its commitment to the global trading system," Kirk and Vilsack wrote. "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."
Russia first announced in December that it would require testing of U.S. meat exports to ensure all meat was free of the feed additive. At the time, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said it was "very concerned" with the testing protocol and that it appeared to be inconsistent with WTO member obligations.
International standards for ractopamine – which is used to promote leanness in pork and beef – were officially approved in July, 2012. After the approval was announced, ag groups said it would ensure countries use only science-based standards to regulate the meat trade.
One of those groups, the National Pork Producers Council, also praised the decision but foreshadowed a possible Russia retaliation.
"U.S. pork producers are very disappointed with the continued opposition to ractopamine for reasons other than scientific ones from several countries, particularly Russia," NPPC President R.C. Hunt said in a July, 2012 statement. "Given Russia's intransigence on ractopamine, we're concerned about its commitment to WTO principles."