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Cablegate: Minag Raises Safety Concerns of U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0035
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #2827/01 2631335
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191335Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY 5372
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0068
INFO RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 4656
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 5205

UNCLAS MOSCOW 002827

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDA FAS FOR OCRA/CURTIS, FLEMINGS, KUYPERS;
- OSTA/HAMILTON, BEAN
PASS FSIS/HARRIES, DUTROW
PASS APHIS MITCHELL
STATE FOR EUR/RUS,
STATE PASS USTR FOR PORTER, HAFNER, KLEIN
BRUSSELS PASS APHIS/FERNANDEZ
VIENNA PASS APHIS/TANAKA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD ECON WTO RS
SUBJECT: MINAG RAISES SAFETY CONCERNS OF U.S.
POULTRY IMPORTS

REF: A) MOSCOW 2788, B) MOSCOW 2769, C) MOSCOW
2740, D) MOSCOW 2620, F) MOSCOW 1674, G) MOSCOW
1281

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Russian Ministry of
Agriculture expressed several specific concerns
regarding the quality and safety of U.S. poultry
via official letter received on September 16.
The letter included a reminder that Russia will
ban the use of chlorine in poultry production as
of Jan 1, 2009, which will effectively block all
U.S. poultry exports to Russia. In addition, the
letter noted instances in which Salmonella was
found in U.S. poultry meat shipments; an
excessive number of U.S. poultry plants not in
compliance with Russian requirements; and the
lack of a U.S. response regarding alleged U.S.
poultry found in Siberia that contained high
arsenic residue levels. Following on the heels
of Russia's request for consultations on the 2005
U.S.-Russia Meat Agreement, the letter appears to
be a blatant attempt to raise safety questions
about U.S. chicken and reiterate the threat to
ban chlorine-treated poultry imports in 2009.
The original scanned copy and courtesy
translation of the letter were sent to USDA, USTR
and the State Department's Russia Desk on
September 17. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The letter, addressed to AgMinCouns and
signed by MinAg's Deputy Director for
International Cooperation, is an apparent
response to Secretary of Agriculture Schafer's
letter to Minister Gordeyev dated August 12.
Secretary Schafer's letter asked for an
explanation of Russia's intent to ban the use of
chlorine in poultry production and to ban frozen
poultry meat to be used for further processing,
even though there is no sound science to support
such action (REFS F,G). According to standard
protocol, the response should have been signed by
Agriculture Minister Gordeyev and addressed to
Secretary Schafer directly. The fact that it was
not appears to have been an intentional snub from
Agriculture Minister Gordeyev.

--------------------------------------
Background on Russian Poultry Industry
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Russian poultry production has grown on
average by 15 percent over the last seven years,
but still is only able to supply about half of
total domestic consumption. Concentration of
poultry production is growing in Russia as
smaller companies decide to sell out instead of
continuing to bleed profits due to skyrocketing
input prices (mostly feed costs). The 30 largest
poultry facilities in Russia produce around 60
percent of the total poultry meat consumed in
Russia.

4. (SBU) Most domestically-produced poultry is
chilled rather than frozen as Russian consumers
overwhelmingly believe that fresh poultry tastes
better. However, domestic poultry is
substantially more expensive making it
unaffordable for the fixed income and lower
income segments of Russia's population. Large
quantities of imported frozen poultry cuts are
destined for Russia's regions where incomes are
lower and there is no locally-produced poultry
production.

5. (SBU) Restrictions on poultry imports will
likely add to the current inflationary pressures
on Russian food prices. Meat prices jumped 2.2

percent in August on a month-to-month basis,
according to official statistics. Russian
consumers will foot the bill as a decrease in
supply causes domestic producers to raise poultry
prices. This was confirmed in a recent
conversation with the general director of Elinar
Broiler who said that the company will raise
prices immediately if and when restrictions are
applied on imported poultry.

6. (SBU) The letter was received on September 16
although it was apparently backdated to September
10. An informal embassy translation of the
letter follows:

BEGIN TEXT:
September 10, 2008
No. 12-2/1053

Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs
Embassy of the United States, Moscow
Mr. Scott Reynolds

In accordance with your request we send you a
response from the Federal Veterinary and
Phytosanitary Surveillance Service.

On June 2, 2008, Mr. Onishchenko, Chief Medical
Officer of the Russian Federation, signed
Resolution no. 33, "On production and circulation
of poultry meat," which was registered by the
Ministry of Justice on June 23, 2008. The
resolution ordered all legal entities and private
entrepreneurs involved in poultry production,
trade and import to stop treatment of bird
carcasses with solutions containing chlorine in
amounts exceeding the level permitted by SanPiN
(sanitary rules and norms) 2.1.4.1074-01 titled,
"Drinking water hygienic requirements on quality
of water of centralized system of drinking water
supply. Quality control," (registered by the
Ministry of Justice on October 31, 2001, no.
3011). The resolution also ordered that the
poultry industry take measures to limit the
amount of water from thawed poultry meat to not
exceed 4 percent of the product weight.

These measures were taken because some local and
foreign poultry-processing facilities use water
containing active chlorine, and compounds
produced from chlorine (sodium hypochlorite,
calcium hypochlorite, magnesium hypochlorite,
bleaching powder, chlorine dioxide, sodium
dichloroisocyanurate, potassium
dichloroisocyanurate), on a regular basis for
reducing microbial contamination found on poultry
carcasses during cooling. The amount of active
chlorine in water that is used for cooling
poultry is up to 50 mg per liter. For anti-
microbial treatment of poultry meat, use of
different organic acids (hypoacetic acid, milk
acid, acetic acid) is strongly recommended.

Use of chlorine in water for cooling poultry meat
results in the accumulation of oxidation of free
chlorine on the surface and in deep muscle tissue
of the poultry meat such as chlororganic
compounds (chlorophenols, chloramines,
trichloromethanes, etc) that are hazardous to
human health.

In addition, there are too many cases of
producers adding more water to increase the
weight of poultry meat which is a violation of
legislation with regards to consumer's rights
protection. It also magnifies the risks of
microbial and chemical contamination of poultry
meat.

During routine monitoring of animal products and
further laboratory tests in 2007-2008, VPSS
repeatedly detained shipments of poultry meat
from the United States that did not comply with
Russian hygienic requirements on microbial safety
and other norms (SanPiN 2.3.2.1078-01).

In an attempt to keep the Russian meat and
poultry market safe for Russian consumers, VPSS
delisted 10 U.S. establishments in 2007 (due to
Salmonella detection in poultry meat) and 4
establishments were delisted for the period
January 1 to August 12, 2008 (detection of
Salmonella and tetracycline antibiotics) and 5
establishments were notified (the list is
included).

Based on the results of the preliminary review of
the random joint inspection materials of U.S.
poultry establishments conducted during the
period from July 26, 2008 to August 16, 2008, it
was discovered that at some inspected plants
supplying poultry meat to Russia, the Russian-
American criteria were not met in full.

Furthermore, at many plants corrective actions
against the deficiencies revealed during previous
audits had not been performed.

In view of these circumstances, poultry plants P-
00003, P-164, P-190, P-239, P-244, P-247, P-519,
P-522, P-550, P-667, P-727, P-758, P-6510, P-
6616, P-7101, P-7769, P-8727, P-19128 and P-20979
starting from September 1, 2008, were excluded by
VPSS from the list of U.S. establishments
approved to export poultry meat to the Russian
Federation.

At the same time we draw your attention to the
fact that during routine monitoring for residues
of prohibited and harmful substances (including
drugs) in frozen poultry meat (chicken leg
quarters) shipments from the United States, an
excess amount of arsenic residue was detected.
The product originated from 4 poultry processing
plants of Peco Foods and 1 poultry-processing
plant of Tyson Foods. The poultry meat was
delivered to those plants for cutting from 4
Tyson Foods slaughterhouses and 2 Equity Group
slaughterhouses.

In spite of our numerous requests (and many
promises from FSIS representatives) to share with
us the results of an investigation of the arsenic
issue, no information has been received by the
Russian side.

In the letter dated July 18, 2008, no. FS-EN-
2/7197 VPSS asked FSIS to allow Russian experts
to visit a few poultry farms during the recent
audit of U.S. poultry facilities. However, the
American Side was not willing to accommodate the
request to VPSS officials.

Since no information has been provided to VPSS by
the American side regarding the results of an
investigation to the arsenic issue and since
Russian veterinary experts were not allowed to
visit poultry farms during the recent audit, I
inform you that in order to avoid a ban on
poultry imports from Tyson Foods (22 plants),
Peco Foods (4 plants), and Equity Group (3
plants), all of which were mentioned in the VPSS
letter no. FS-AS-2/8643 dated August 28, 2008,
VPSS informed that results of your comprehensive
investigation must be received within one month.
As of September 15, 2008, no information has been
provided to the Russian side.

Please accept, Mr. Reynolds, assurances of my
deep respect for you.

V.L. Demyanenko
Deputy Director of International Collaboration
END TEXT.

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) The letter from MinAg appears to be a
blatant attempt to raise questions about the
safety of U.S. chicken and a warning of the
Russian plan to ban chlorine-treated imports as
of January 1, 2009, in advance of consultations
on the 2005 U.S.-Russia Meat Agreement, which
Russia formally requested in a September 11
letter from Economic Development Minister
Nabiullina to U.S. Trade Representative Schwab
(Ref B). MinAg is sending a message that, one
way or another, it will lower the quantity of
U.S. poultry exports to Russia and achieve the
twin goals of protecting domestic producers and
inflicting at least some cost on U.S.
agribusiness interests. If GOR and USG officials
do not reach an agreement through consultations,
Russian veterinary officials will be ready to use
other means to cut the flow of U.S. poultry
exports to Russia, including the imposition of
sanitary and phytosanitary measures based on
chlorine and water content.

8. (SBU) Post recommends that USDA prepare a
detailed response refuting various points
mentioned in the letter prior to the
consultations.
BEYRLE

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