Russia has threatened to ban imports of chilled meat from the US due to the presence of feed additive ractopamine, in the latest in a series of food safety complaints from the ex-Soviet power.

Russia is considering a temporary ban on imports of chilled meat from the US from 4 February, the head of the country’s veterinary and phytosanitary surveillance agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, warned late yesterday (23 January).

Tests have found feed additive ractopamine in chilled pork and beef from the US, breaching Russia’s food regulations, the agency said.

Russia’s timing is likely to fuel further speculation of political manoeuvring, and may be viewed by some as a reaction to western powers’ stronger public stance against human rights violations within Russia.

Earlier this week, Rosselkhoznadzor said it would ban imports of German chilled meat, also from 4 February, because Germany’s veterinary controls are too lax. It has also threatened to ban poultry imports from the entire European Union, after finding “low pathogenic avian influenza type A” in some regions of Germany. 

By raising concerns around ractopamine, Rosselkhoznadzor is tapping into a live debate in the US.

In December, US non-profit group Center for Food Safety called on the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to review the additive, which is used to accelerate weight gain and promote feed efficiency and leanness in animals raised for meat.

Current evidence suggests ractopamine residues may be harmful to human health over the longer-term, as well as detrimental to animal wellbeing, the group argued.
Ractopamine is banned across the meat supply chain in the European Union.

Meanwhile, Canada has told Russia it will guarantee to remove ractopamine from chilled meat exports to the country by 28 February.