WASHINGTON – Office of the US Trade Representative and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service officials at recent bilateral meetings with Russian government officials expressed their concerns that Russia intends to expand its prohibition against frozen poultry, according to the National Chicken Council. One of these meetings was the Russian World Trade Organization membership consultations in Geneva several weeks ago.

Russia has not permitted frozen poultry to be further processed into baby food for some time. Russian Ministry of Health officials recently announced the ministry’s intentions to prohibit frozen poultry usage for all further processed products, such as sausages. Last week Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s Chief Health Officer, told RIA Novosti that the prohibition will be expanded on Jan. 1, 2011, to prohibit the use of any and all frozen poultry. Only refrigerated poultry will be permitted, according to the report. Onishchenko said the ban on frozen poultry will apply to imported product and domestically-produced poultry.

Other countries exporting poultry to Russia have joined the call from the US government for a resolution to the issue. EU representatives are meeting in Moscow during the week of Nov. 8 to try to dissuade Russia from implementing the prohibition against frozen poultry.

Onishchenko was the key official in prohibiting the continued use of chlorinated water for poultry destined for export to Russia. He is emerging again as the primary official implementing the disapproval of frozen poultry and is using the same argument as before, saying that the new measure is necessary to protect the health of Russian consumers.

Pushback against the provision is also building within Russia. Sergei Yushin, executive committee chairman of Russia’s National Meat Association, told reporters he disagrees with Onishchenko’s decision and questions how such a requirement can be harmonized with international norms and scientific organizations. No more than five companies in Russia can currently produce non-frozen poultry, according to a report by the Russian Business Council who polled industry and market executives.

Companies producing one-half of the poultry in Russia do not have the capacity to meet the new requirement, the report added.

US officials indicated a renewed effort on the issues will be undertaken this week.