Russia’s veterinary surveillance watchdog posted notification yesterday that they plan to introduce a ban on New Zealand beef and beef products starting from Monday next week.
The watchdog say that results of laboratory tests conducted in 2016 revealed numerous violations of standards in meat and meat products from New Zealand.
Between May and December they identified and recorded bacteria of the genus Listeria in beef and beef offal and found ractopamine in the liver of beef.
Ractopamine is a feed additive used to promote leanness in animals raised for meat and has been banned in many countries including Russia and the European Union.
New Zealand authorities reacted by saying that New Zealand food standards are among the highest in the world and they are committed to producing high quality safe meat for domestic and overseas consumers.
A spokesman for New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries said ractopamine is not registered for use in beef animals which given the gravitas of the situation is not quite the same as saying it’s banned outright.
New Zealand's Chief executive of the Meat Industry Association said the additive was prohibited in beef or sheep feed in New Zealand, but was allowed in pork, so it is available in country and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it could find itself entering the beef food chain, accidentally or otherwise.
Furthermore while ractopamine is prohibited for use in many countries around the world, it’s not prohibited in every country including, as far as I can tell, the USA.
Given how the global food supply chain is open to anomalies, it’s not entirely unfeasible that New Zealand beef products exported to Russia might also include beef products sourced from a country that has not banned ractopamine.
It wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened, remember the UK horse meat scandal, I seem to recall a UK industry spokesman at the time saying their food standards are among the highest in the world and they are committed to producing high quality safe meat etc.
New Zealand authorities are saying they are "mystified" by the report and describing the move as "sabre rattling" and probably a non-tariff barrier to frustrate trade which may well be the case but in my experience Russia generally doesn't make these type of announcements without some sort of evidence.
New Zealand's meat industry representatives need to get un-mystified pronto and sort this out given the red meat trade to Russia was worth NZD 24.6m in 2016 with beef livers accounting for NZD 9.5m.
New Zealand is not covered by Russia's wider ban on Western food imports.