Russian move to block pork imports hit by U.S.

by Bryan Salvage
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MOSCOW — The U.S. strongly objected to an April 28 decision by Russian trade officials to widen its ban on meat imports from Mexico and some U.S. states in a story published by The Associated Press. Health officials have confirmed that consumption of cooked pork does not put consumers at risk for contracting the virus.

Russia's veterinary watchdog, Rosselkhodnadzor, added New York and Ohio to the list of U.S. states barred from exporting pork into that country. Russia earlier banned meat products from Mexico and three U.S. states — Texas, Kansas and California — as the number of flu cases escalated and crossed international borders. So far, Russia has no reported cases of this flu.

But the U.S. slammed the ban, stating that the disease was not spread through meat products. "(In the) absence (of) any risk to human or animal health, there is no basis for any import restrictions on U.S. meat products related to concern over swine influenza," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. "We look forward to a quick resumption of normal meat trade with Russia."

Russia has also suspended pork imports not heat-treated from several Latin American countries and eight other U.S. states. Brian Black, spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture, said, "International commerce decisions should always be based on sound science. And right now there is no scientific evidence that swine anywhere in the world are infected with this influenza virus."

The World Health Organization announced earlier that the virus does not spread through eating infected pork. Countries are allowed to block imports on health and safety grounds if there is scientific evidence of potential risks, according to international trade laws.

Last year, the U.S. imported $836 million worth of poultry to Russia, $436 million worth of pork products and $75 million worth of beef.

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