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Russia to ban US pork, beef over growth drug residues

Posted Feb 13, 2013 5:46 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

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Russia has issued a ban of U.S. pork and beef imports starting this month over concerns about the use of a controversial drug that boosts growth and leanness in livestock.

However, U.S. officials have suggested that the ban is politically motivated as the announcement came hours after the U.S. Senate's approval of a bill that punished Russian officials linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison after accusing authorities of embezzlement, Food Safety News reports.

“The United States is very concerned that Russia has taken these actions, which appear to be inconsistent with its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in December when Russia first announced it would test beef and pork imports for the presence of ractopamine, according to FSN. The drug is commonly fed in North America to swine and cattle in the weeks leading up to slaughter to improve the rate at which the animals convert feed to lean muscle.

In response, the chief of Russian veterinary and food safety service, said the restriction has been in the works for months based on lingering questions about the safety of ractopamine.

Although about two dozen countries have approved ractopamine as safe for use, the European Union, China and several other countries, including Russia, have banned their producers from using the drug, according to FSN. Last year, Taiwan had a contentious debate over whether to accept imports that contained low levels of the drug.

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