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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Cries Foul Over Latest Ban on Poultry

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found no basis for Moscow's recent decertification of four U.S. poultry plants, an agency spokeswoman said Thursday, bringing a new wrinkle to an already troubled Russian trade relationship.

On Sept. 26, agriculture officials notified the USDA that it had found an illegal hormone and salmonella on imports from four U.S. poultry plants.

The USDA said its investigation turned up no sign of either contaminant.

The U.S. poultry industry has repeatedly suggested that Russia was more interested in protecting its growing domestic poultry industry with trade barriers than making its food supply safer.

Russia is the largest foreign buyer of U.S. poultry, mostly low-cost chicken legs. During the first eight months of this year, Russia bought 755,900 tons of U.S. poultry.

But trade has fallen in recent years, in part due to an import quota imposed by Moscow this year and partially due to repeated disputes over sanitary standards. Those disputes received high-level attention, including discussions by U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin.

USDA spokeswoman Julie Quick said an agency investigation of Russia's September complaints found that the poultry was tested for salmonella prior to departure for Russia "and those were all negative."

Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause illness in humans, is commonly found on meats and can be killed with proper cooking.

She added that the hormone in question, 19-nortesterone, "is banned for use in poultry production in the United States and there is no evidence to suggest that the hormone had been used in U.S. poultry production."

"We're continuing to work with Russia to try to get to the bottom of this on why these pieces of information are conflicting," Quick said.

USDA and U.S. poultry industry officials have refused to identify the plants. They also have not provided details on the volume of shipments from the four facilities.

Also on Thursday, Russia said it had renewed a ban on overseas poultry imports coming by land through third countries.

A new government resolution, published on an official web site, only allows poultry imports from countries not linked to Russia by road or rail to come through customs posts at sea, river ports and airports from Jan. 1.

"This resolution is aimed at keeping the current import rules," said Albert Davleyev, head of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council office in Moscow.

The current ban on poultry imports by land, set up to stop illegal imports, will automatically become invalid from next year when a new customs code comes into effect, he said.

A Russian government official in Washington said that in a separate incident this week, one shipment of 7,000 tons of U.S. poultry was being held at port because of inadequate documentation.

But the official added that he thought neither incident represented "a major problem" for U.S.-Russian poultry trade.

Quick said the de-listing of the four U.S. plants would not result in a net decrease in U.S. poultry sales to Russia.