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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Bans Meat Imports From France

Russia has banned meat imports from France, fearing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease - but experts warn that Russian herds are under threat closer to home.

Russia's Veterinary Service said Thursday that it had imposed a ban on beef, pork, lamb and other meat from France after French officials reported cases of the disease. The service had already banned meat from Britain and warned that it could halt all European meat imports if the outbreak spreads.

Meanwhile, cases of foot-and-mouth have been reported just across Russia's borders: in six regions of Mongolia and in the former Soviet republic of Georgia to Russia's south.

Russia has banned meat from Mongolia since a foot-and-mouth outbreak there last summer, said a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Ministry press service.

But the ban is extremely difficult to enforce, since sheep and cattle often cross the border to graze and mingling with Russian livestock in the remote region, she said. Emergency officials reported recently that Russian hunters were randomly shooting wild rams straying across the border to check if they were infected.

In Georgia, agriculture officials said small outbreaks of foot-and-mouth occur every year, with about a dozen cases reported earlier this year.

Russia regularly vaccinates livestock for foot-and-mouth disease and has seen very few cases over the past decade, the Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman said. She had no figures.

Cases of the disease were registered in the Primorye region of the Russian Far East last year but were quickly wiped out, First Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko said this week.

Governments around the world are banning livestock and meat imports in an effort to protect livestock from the disease after an outbreak in Britain.

The disease can kill young animals, and infected animals produce less meat and milk. If uncontrolled, an outbreak can cripple a nation's livestock and dairy industries. The virus causes blister-like sores in the hooves and mouths of animals, and spreads quickly through the air or on motor vehicles or people.