Russia lifts pork ban from U.S. Wisconsin, Canada

Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:45am EDT
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday it would lift a ban on live pigs and raw pork imports from the U.S. state of Wisconsin and Canada's Ontario province from July 18 due to what it said was a "stabilization" of the situation of the H1N1 virus in those places.

The animal and plant health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said it now applies a ban on imports of live pigs and uncooked pork from only one U.S. state -- Florida, as well as the whole of Great Britain and three Japanese prefectures.

Bans will no longer be applied to Canada from July 18.

Rosselkhoznadzor, which did not provide details about how the situation had improved, is keeping a tougher ban on all types of meat from Mexico, Central American and Caribbean states.

The ban also applies to all raw and cooked meat products which may be carried in the personal luggage of passengers and crew, as well as to food served on board airplanes and ships which have stopped in these places.

The spread of the virus, commonly known as swine flu, is not caused by pigs and pork, but some countries including Russia have nevertheless slapped bans on some imports.

The World Health Organization, which has repeatedly said it is safe to eat pork, last month declared the H1N1 outbreak a pandemic. U.S. health officials estimate at least a million people have been infected and that the virus is spreading out of control.

As of July 16, Russia had officially registered only 4 cases -- none fatal -- of H1N1 virus on its territory, though the actual numbers are likely much higher.

(Reporting by Aleksandras Budrys, Editing by Michael Kahn)