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US concerned over Russia meat ban

Posted on Feb 01, 09:59PM | IANS

Washington, Feb 1 : The US is "deeply concerned" by Russia's decision to ban US beef and pork imports containing the feed additive ractopamine, a move Washington believes could undermine bilateral ties, an official said.

"These actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade relationship," said Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the office of US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk.

Russia's federal food safety agency announced earlier this week it will institute a temporary ban on US beef and pork imports beginning Feb 11.

It said its American counterpart, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, failed to guarantee that these shipments would be free of the additive, which promotes growth in livestock.

The Russian agency had warned the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil that their meat imports could be halted should the shipments contain ractopamine.

The US government and meat industry lobby groups insist that ractopamine is safe at acceptable levels established by the international community, including the UN's main food safety body.

"To date, the US has not seen any scientific evidence that would justify Russia's measures on ractopamine residues," Mead said.

She said the ban may put Russia in violation of its World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations and that the US may seek recourse through the global trade body.

"We are currently exploring all options, including tools available through the WTO, regarding shipments of beef and pork products to Russia," Mead said.

The dispute comes at a time of increasingly strained relations between the US and Russia over human rights and child adoptions.