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Cablegate: Russia Losing Patience with Typos On Vet

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #2688/01 2521405
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081405Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY 5363
INFO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9888
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 4648
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 5192

UNCLAS MOSCOW 002688

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD TBIO WTO RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA LOSING PATIENCE WITH TYPOS ON VET
CERTIFICATES

REF: A) HANSEN/HAMILTON EMAIL, B) MOSCOW 269, C)
MOSCOW 2134, D) MOSCOW 2435

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Russian Federal Veterinary
and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS)
informed via official letter that it is running
out of patience with the amount of errors being
discovered on veterinary documentation
accompanying U.S. poultry and pork shipments to
Russia. VPSS accuses USDA's Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) of incompetence and
demands that immediate steps be taken to prevent
more violations in the future. Original scanned
copy and courtesy translation were sent to
FAS/OSTA on September 5 (REF A). An informal
embassy translation of the backdated letter
follows. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) BEGIN TEXT:
Moscow, September 3, 2008
No. FS-NV-2/8901

Assistant Administrator
FSIS Office of International Affairs, USDA
Dr. William James

The Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary
Surveillance Service (VPSS) extends its regards
to FSIS, USDA and would like to inform you of
the following.

During 2008, U.S. veterinary services repeatedly
committed violations in filling out veterinary
documents that accompanied veterinary products
(poultry, pork) exported from the United States
to the Russian Federation.

During routine border veterinary inspection,
discrepancies were repeatedly found between
information indicated in veterinary certificates
and actual facts, namely: container numbers,
establishment numbers, name of product,
manufacturing dates, and product weight. It was
found also that one establishment was indicated
in the veterinary certificate; however products
from several establishments were actually found
in the container.

Thus in veterinary certificates for poultry no.
RFA-045214, RFA-045220, RFA-045222, RFA-045232,
the container number was indicated with errors;
in veterinary certificate for pork no. RFA-
087116, the indicated weight did not correspond
to actual weight; in veterinary certificate for
poultry no. RFA-031184, the issue date was signed
by different signatures; in veterinary
certificate for poultry no. RFA-027567, the
product name was indicated incorrectly (chicken
leg boneless instead of actually shipped chicken
breast); in veterinary certificates for poultry
no. RFA-045202, RFA-045242, RFA-045244, RFA-
045246, RFA-044171, RFA-044172 the number of
certificates were indicated with errors on the
packaging; in certificates for turkey meat no.
RFA-043877, RFA-006822, RFA-006823 the
manufacturing dates were indicated incorrectly;
in veterinary certificate for poultry no. RFA-
027352, RFA-003133, RFA-019871, RFA-044340 and in
veterinary certificates for pork no. RFA-076495,
RFA-078125, the number of containers were
indicated incorrectly; in veterinary certificates
no. RFA-078405, RFA-075197, RFA-075198, it was
indicated that the products were shipped from one
establishment; however the product found in the
containers were actually from two establishments;
in veterinary certificate for pork no. RFA-082413
the product name was indicated with errors (head

trimming, actually cheek trimming was shipped);
in veterinary certificates for pork no. RFP-
078410 and RFP-078411 and in veterinary
certificates for poultry no. RFA-044247, RFA-
044239 the manufacturing dates were indicated
incorrectly as were the certificate numbers on
the packaging; in veterinary certificate for pork
no. RFP-097458 the establishment number was
indicated as no. 31965 but the number on the
packaging was stamped no. 20239.

In July 2007, VPSS sent FSIS list of 1,071
veterinary certificates that accompanied meat
products shipped from the United States to
Russian importers. VPSS asked that you confirm
or deny issuing of the suspect certificates. In
addition in April 2008, a list of 534 veterinary
certificates was sent to FSIS with the same
request.

In the end of April 2008, VPSS received a
response from FSIS with confirmation of
authenticity for 860 certificates out of 1,071
which were sent in 2007. However, the United
States veterinary service requested from VPSS
copies of 534 certificates to confirm their
authenticity.

The facts mentioned above show the absence of
appropriate control that FSIS has to provide in
shipments of veterinary products to the Russian
Federation.

In this connection, we ask you to take urgent
measures to prevent shipments of veterinary
products to the Russian Federation with
veterinary certificates prepared with violations.
We also ask you to provide VPSS with
comprehensive information about the undertaken
measures.

Dr. James, please accept my assurances of the
deepest respect.

Deputy Head
N.A. Vlasov
END TEXT.

3. (SBU) This is not the first time that VPSS has
complained about the number of errors being found
on U.S. veterinary certificates that accompany
meat and poultry shipments to Russia.
Periodically, VPSS summarizes all of the typos
found on veterinary certificates and, as in this
instance, sends the list to FSIS via official
letter with a threat to ban either the facilities
in question and/or the entire U.S. meat and
poultry industry unless measures are taken to
stop the number of "gross violations of Russian
veterinary rules and regulations" (REF D). Post
has reminded VPSS officials on numerous occasions
that typos on veterinary certificates have
nothing to do with food safety or quality of the
product in question. Nevertheless, VPSS views
minor and inadvertent clerical mistakes as "gross
violations of veterinary regulations" putting
them in the same category as Salmonella and
anthrax (REF B).

4. (SBU) In 2007 the United States exported
approximately 1 million metric tons of meat and
poultry to Russia valued at an estimated USD 851
million dollars. The quantity of meat that
arrived with accompany veterinary certificates
that had typographical errors totaled 2,515
metric tons or just 0.25 percent of total U.S.
meat shipments to Russia. An example of a minor
clerical error is a missing number of the meat
processing facility listed on a certificate.


5. (SBU) COMMENT: VPSS is apparently building a
case against FSIS to show that it is incapable of
ensuring that U.S. meat and poultry meet Russian
veterinary regulations so that trade can be
restricted when deemed necessary. Post's
internal investigation showed that only 0.25
percent of total U.S. meat shipments to Russia in
2007 arrived with veterinary certificates with
typos. While most would consider this to be an
acceptable margin of error that comes with large
trade volumes, VPSS believes otherwise and
enforces a strict zero tolerance policy towards
human error. Post encourages Washington
addresses to seek higher-level intervention to
prod Russia into accepting international
scientific standards in such cases as called for
by international bodies. We should avoid the
prospect of VPSS delisting U.S. meat and poultry
facilities that produce and export safe products
simply because of typographical errors on
accompanying certificates. END COMMENT.
BEYRLE

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