Russia to toughen antibiotic stance following scandal

Antibiotic residues were allegedly found in Russian chicken nuggets

Russia’s sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor is aiming to develop new methods of identifying antibiotic residues in food products within the next three years.

It plans to teach veterinary specialists from the countries of the Eurasia Economy Union (EEU) to use these, as well as enhancing control measures in Russia, according to Anna Popova, official spokeswoman of Rospotrebnadzor. The details were published in a 25 May report posted in the Russian Gazette, the official publication of the country’s government.

The statement was released shortly after Russia’s veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor identified antibiotic residues in chicken nuggets from the local production facilities of Cargill, manufactured for McDonald’s outlets in Russia.

Rosselkhoznadzor reported that recent studies showed the presence of furazolidone in the chicken nuggets, adding that some of the company’s products had also been infected with salmonella. The veterinary body sent 18 tonnes of potentially dangerous poultry products to be destroyed and fined Cargill RUB300,000 (US$4,500), according a statement on the website of the Tula and Moscow Oblast department of Rosselkhoznadzor, posted on 25 May.

Banned exports

Rosselkhoznadzor has also initiated a regime of enhanced laboratory control on Cargill and, in a separate release posted on 30 May, said it had banned export supplies of all the company’s products to third countries.

However, Cargill claimed the source of the antibiotic-polluted products was one of the company’s suppliers in Russia, Belgrancorm – a large domestic poultry producer with around a 5% share of the country’s poultry market – saying it had delivered this meat to Cargill’s poultry processing plant in Tula Oblast. Belgrancorm was not available for comment on the issue.

Rosselkhoznadzor has also cancelled a declaration of conformity on chicken nuggets for Cargill, the regulator said, which means the company will not be able to manufacture these products and supply them to McDonald’s until new approval documents are issued.

Antibiotics in Cargill products

Popova has not commented directly on the incident regarding the identification of antibiotic residues in Cargill products, saying only that the regulator has been struggling against this problem in Russia for a number of years and the rules on antibiotics used in agriculture in Russia are much stricter than in other countries of the world. She noted that the maximum allowable rate is set at 0.01mg/kg, and that this was much lower than in the European Union, where it ranges from 0.1-0.6mg/kg.

She said that, every year, Russia’s sanitary body studies nearly 20,000 product samples from the country’s market for the presence of antibiotics, noting that the situation is constantly improving. In particular, she said, the share of products where residues were discovered had reduced from 1.5% to 0.5% over the past decade.

Popova also stated that the recently adopted State Strategy on Government Policy of Food Quality and Safety stipulated that the government should establish some traceability system to supervise the use of antibiotics at every stage of the supply chain in Russia’s agricultural industry. Monitoring activities on products containing antibiotic residues should be enhanced, she added, with the ultimate goal of reducing the use of antibiotics, starting with the tetracycline group.

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