Russian health regulators have announced a new regulation that will require imported meat to undergo testing for and be certified free of ractopamine, a hormone that has reportedly been linked to health concerns. The additive allegedly promotes animal growth and leaner meat and is added to some animal feed in the United States.

According to news sources, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no mechanism in place certifying meat as “ractopamine free,” the Russian requirement could effectively halt U.S. pork and beef exports to the country, profoundly affecting the more than $500-million market. Some industry analysts reportedly see the move as retaliation for American legislation punishing Russian officials linked to alleged human rights violations.

In a recent press release, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated, “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 [WTO]. The United States calls on Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products. The United States sought, and Russia committed as part of its WTO accession package, to ensure that it adhered rigorously to WTO requirements and that it would use international standards unless it had a risk assessment to justify use of a more stringent standard. Especially in light of its commitment to use international standards, this is an important opportunity for Russia to demonstrate that it takes its WTO commitments seriously.”

Additional details about a recent report on ractopamine residue in pork appear in Issue 463 of this Update. See, December 12, 2012.