Russia restricts U.S. meat imports, denies move is political

Sat Dec 8, 2012 5:46am EST
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* Meat imports from suppliers using ractopamine to be tested, certified

* Russia to test shipments during transition period

* Health watchdog denies move is retaliatory for "Magnitsky Act"

MOSCOW, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Meat imports to Russia from producers using ractopamine must be tested and certified free of the feed additive, the country's veterinary regulator said, with Moscow's health watchdog denying the requirement is a political retaliation.

The move, announced a day after the U.S. Senate approved a bill to expand trade between Washington and Moscow that also sought to punish Russian human rights violators, could jeopardize North American meat beef and pork suppliers.

It would potentially make the United States, which exports more than $500 million a year worth of beef and pork to Russia, significantly less competitive, giving advantage to Chinese and European Union meat producers, where ractopamine is banned.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation said the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no testing and certification program in place for ractopamine.

Russia's plant and health regulator, Rosselkhoznadzor, said that as of Friday it would allow for an unidentified transition period during which in the absence of a needed certification, Russia will test each shipment itself.

"During this period the veterinary service of the suppliers have to create a system of laboratory testing of products certifying the absence of ractopamine," the regulator said in a statement posted late Friday on its website.   Continued...