Tour operators following ban on parmesan imports: “Might they eat their low-quality products themselves”

Experts warned about health concerns linked with dangerous viruses in the products imported by Russians, the tourism sector is being indignant

The National Meat Association sent a letter to Russian Vice-Premier Aleksey Gordeyev with a proposal to ban meat and dairy products in cabin luggage. Those who wrote the letter think that pathogenic viruses can be brought in together with the products, for instance, African swine fever (ASF). The Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) consider the measure effective as well as other experts surveyed by Realnoe Vremya. However, the tourism industry called the initiative rubbish. More is in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Widespread ban

In the letter of the National Meat Association to Vice-Premier Aleksey Gordeyev, it’s proposed to “give an instruction to Rosselkhoznadzor to impose a ban people coming from abroad by any means of transport and crossing the border of the Russian Federation on foot from importing meat, milk and products that contain them for personal use (except for formula milk for babies and baby food)”.

According to the mass media, the agriculture ministry is already addressing the issue. Head of the association Sergey Yushin shared statistics with journalists that confirm his position about a rise in importation of dangerous diseases with products: 5,000 centres of AFS were detected in 14 countries, mostly in Poland, over 1,200 cases were registered in Romania, over 600 were in Latvia. There have already been detected 2,000 centres this year, Yushin added.

Press Secretary of the V. Gorbatov Federal Research Centre for Food Systems Federal State Funded Research Institution Dmitry Gordeyev supports the proposal of meat producers (the association includes Agroalliance, Miratorg, Cherkizovo Group PJSC and other companies). Moreover, in the interlocutor’s opinion, Rosselkhoznadzor must tighten the detection and localisation of centres of diseases, control over the habitat of wild animals, maintenance of animals in private households and so on.

“It’s a necessary and effective measure widespread around the world,” the expert noted. Risks of importation of infectious agents make countries actively introduce a ban on imports of animal products (some have been banning them for years). Gordeyev puts examples of sanctions for violating the bans mentioned in the mass media. For instance, three years of a prison term or a $6,800 fine for the importation of products without safety certification to Japan; passengers entering Australia must declare all the products made of vegetable or animal ingredients, or pay an AUS$420,000 fine.

Sergey Yushin provided statistics confirming his position about a rise in risks of importation of dangerous diseases together with products. Photo:

“Let’s think, would all these countries take corresponding measures understanding they are ineffective? Why do we so often like to turn to the experience of foreign countries but not in this case when the case is really about national safety, the people’s well-being, development of Russian business? For most Russians, these products aren’t a part of the market basket,’’ adds Gordeyev.

Investigations dont point the finger at jamón

Deputy head of the main veterinary administration of the Tatarstan Cabinet of Ministers Ayrat Garayev also confirms that there is a threat: “Jamón is raw cured meat, it’s salted, there is almost no treating with heat. This means there is a risk of importation of a virus.” At the same time, the interlocutor specifies that such cases haven’t been so far described, while investigations after virus outbreaks didn’t show that a virus was brought to a Russian region with jamón.

“Foot-and-mouth disease was last detected in Tatarstan in 1986, in Almetyevsk, while the latest case in Russia was in Bashkortostan. African swine fever in Tatarstan was last detected in 2016. In Russia, it arises almost monthly in a region – I can open any weekly summary,” Garayev says. Wild fauna is considered to be the main way of transmission. Garayev confirms Gordeyev’s opinion about the necessity to control the movement of animals – now it’s almost not regulated, and modern livestock, poultry breeding complexes don’t have biological protection systems. “Modern agriculture is a closed maintenance type to avoid contact with wild animals, and equipment operating inside is designed to avoid importation. Workers who work in modern complexes also go through certain disinfection procedures, put special clothes on, which are used only inside a complex.”

Ayrat Garayev also confirms that there is a threat. Photo:

Chairman of the Tatarstan Association of Farmers and Farm Yards Kamiyar Baytemirov supports targeted ban on imports: “Rosselkhoznadzor has data what countries have such a threat. This is why there must be a targeted ban: if the greatest number was registered in Poland, Romania, their imports must be banned first of all.”

Baytemirov recalls several cases of bird disease outbreaks, which were provoked by the sale of infected products from a neighbouring region (the Chuvash Republic): “For this reason, diseases can move in Russia, too, they can come not only from other countries.”

Quality issue

Jamón and parmesan are popular souvenirs that Russians bring to their relatives as a gift after trips abroad, this is why this prohibition is unlikely to make travellers be glad about it, says President of the Association of Tourism Agencies of the Republic of Tatarstan Ramil Miftakhov.

“I think it’s silly to ban such things, people will continue importing them as they did. When I go to Spain, can’t I bring jamón as a gift? Or won’t I bring a piece of parmesan from Italy? It’s rubbish. What producers offer… Might they eat their low-quality products themselves. People must have a choice. I am sure they do import themselves,” the interlocutor added emotionally.

“As for a possibility of distribution of viruses: they had been imported, nobody has died,” Miftakov goes on. “Things mainly from the European Union are brought, the quality of products, the level of control is much higher or not worse than ours, I believe.”

Ramil Miftakhov: “I think it’s silly to ban such things, people will continue importing them as they did.” Photo: Maksim Platonov

Garayev confirms that the quality of European cheeses is incomparably higher but he doesn’t have data about safety monitoring. “Authentic Italian cheese, Italians will unlikely pasteurise it, it kills both pathogenic bacteria and the taste. Their quality of the cheese is higher, it’s made of raw milk, in Russia, people cut corners to accelerate the process,” he complains.

Economic consequences

Veterinary services don’t work honestly in all the regions, Garayev adds. Shortly before the bird flu outbreak in the Laishevo poultry farm in 2017, Evrodon company from Rostov supplied almost a tonne of turkey meat to Naberezhnye Chelny:

“We detected this virus there, while our colleagues’ supporting documents from Rostov Oblast said that the product had been examined, and the virus hadn't been detected. We filed claims, but nobody was punished apart from firing the head of the veterinary service from the post. Meanwhile, there were big economic consequences here – so many products were burnt, we had an outbreak in the Laishevo poultry farm some time later after detecting these violations. These two cases can probably be linked.”

According to Garayev, this year they had to send products back to Penza Oblast, Perm Krai, there were detected low pathogenic avian influenza virus.

The regional office of Rosselkhoznadzor hasn’t replied to Realnoe Vremya’s request.

By Leysan Nabiyeva

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