Health Minister Yuri Shevchenko attempted to reassure the public on Sunday after several media reports revealed that political figures in Russia [including Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov] are interested in purchasing beef originating from cow herds in Germany being slaughtered to fight an outbreak of mad cow disease there.  Such reports are groundless, he maintained.

Meat from diseased livestock will never "appear on our tables," he stressed, adding: "I am absolutely convinced of this."

Shevchenko explained that the quality control system in place for the meat that reaches Russian supermarket shelves has been developed along legislative and executive procedures.

"Russia is not in any danger, everything is under control," he said. "However, discussing the system in detail though is difficult as it is a very complicated state system."

Shevchenko added that the public also had no reason to be concerned over the foot and mouth epidemics ranging elsewhere: "Back during the Soviet period we had already developed a strict and encompassing system to check for this disease among livestock and not allowing this disease from spreading into Russia. This proven system continues to this day, one of the few systems we are thankful of having, and its work is absolutely reliable."