DENVER – US pork industry experts recently spent several days in Russia meeting with officials from Russia’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) and observing the testing methods and facilities used to enforce Russia’s technical requirements for imported and domestic pork, the US Meat Export Federation says.

US-Russia pork trade has been hampered by Russia’s unique technical regulations for pork – in particular, its zero tolerance for certain antibiotic residues and other microbiological parameters. Over the past two years, these requirements were at the heart of widespread plant delistings, which eventually led to a virtual closure of the market to US pork.

Although the US industry does not agree that these regulations are justified or science-based, the purpose of the meetings and laboratory visits was to observe whether they are being properly and uniformly enforced, and whether US pork is being treated in a manner that is equitable with domestic products and those from other foreign suppliers. From this standpoint, the US team emerged with a very favorable impression.

The team concluded the surveillance and enforcement system in Russia is science-based and very well-operated, said Thad Lively, USMEF senior vice president for market access and analysis. He emphasizes these observations do not eliminate the fundamental disagreement between the US and Russia over these technical requirements, but added it is encouraging to see them uniformly and consistently enforced regardless of product origin.

“The primary objective of the trip was to come away with a clear understanding of the testing methods that are being used in Russia, the lab equipment and the training their technicians in the lab have gone through. And just generally to get a clearer understanding of their surveillance and monitoring system that is in place in Russia,” Lively said.

Although these observations do not eliminate the fundamental disagreements over the technical requirements, Lively said it is encouraging to see them uniformly and consistently enforced.

“We had a very well-qualified team and they came away with the clear conclusion that the system in Russia is state-of-the-art and that things are being done right by the Russians. As far as enforcement and surveillance goes, we really can’t find fault with the things that are being done. Our disagreement relates to the requirements. The people we were meeting with were not responsible for the requirements; their responsibility is limited to enforcement of those requirements. So, the Russians are quite clear on our disagreement over their requirements, many of which are not based on science, but this trip was not devoted to discussion of the requirements themselves.”

Lively added that although the trade impasses are frustrating, the team did not find any evidence of bias against US products.

“The people we met with presented the results of all the testing they do, not only on US products but products that are imported from other countries as well as Russian products. They’re finding a lot of violations of their requirements in Russian products as well as imports from other countries. So there isn’t a bias against imports from the US, but again the system is being administered in a consistent and impartial way.”