September 1, 2008


USDA confirms Russia de-lists 19 US poultry suppliers



The US Department of Agriculture confirmed Friday (August 29) that Russia had removed 19 US poultry plants from the list of approved export sites.


"On August 28, Russia sent a letter to USDA stating that as of September 1, nineteen poultry establishments would be de-listed as a result of their most recent audit," said Amanda Eamich, spokeswoman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, in a statement.


Russia's federal food quality watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said Friday the 19 plants were removed from the approved poultry supplier list because they did not meet Russian food safety requirements.


According to the USDA, among the delisted plants include Tyson Foods' Carthage, Miss., and Clarksville, Ark., plants; Sanderson Farms facilities in Hazelhurst and Collins, Miss.; Butterball LLC's plant in Carthage, Mo.; Mountaire Farms' plants in Millsboro and Selbyville, Del.; Simmons Foods' plants in Southwest City, Mo., and Siloam Springs, Ark.; Peco Foods' facilities in Bay Springs and Sebastopol, Miss.; Peterson Farms' facility in Decatur, Ark.; Choctaw Maid Farms' plant in Forest, Miss.; New Oxford Foods' plant in New Oxford, Pa.; Wayne Farms' plant in Laurel, Miss.; and Case Farms' facility in Dudley, N.C.


Despite the de-listings, other plants are still approved to ship poultry products to Russia.


The USDA said in the statement that the facilities no longer approved for shipment to Russia are in compliance with US food safety regulations.


A possible list of the plants was leaked in Russia and was reported by Russian media. Some of the plants on that list are owned by Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), Jennie-O Turkey Store and Sanderson Farms.


Gary Mickelson, spokesman for Tyson Foods, issued a statement that said, "While we have not received confirmation from the US government, there are reports three of our US poultry plants have been de-listed by Russia. We do not believe this will have any significant impact on our export sales, since two of the affected plants have not recently been shipping anything to Russia and because we have 16 other approved US plants available to continue meeting the needs of our Russian customers."


While Russia's domestic production is growing, Russia cannot yet fill its poultry consumption needs solely with its own product, said Toby Moore, vice president of communications for the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, in an e-mailed statement. Of all the countries that export poultry to Russia, the US is in the best position to remain a major supplier for some time to come, he said.


"We have been waiting for the Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service to inform our government of the results of the recent series of audits of US poultry plants and cold storage facilities that were conducted by VPSS in July and August," Moore said.


"Unfortunately, we learned today that VPSS has removed 19 of these establishments from the list of facilities approved for export to Russia for various deficiencies cited by the VPSS auditors," Moore said.


While this is a larger-than-normal number of establishments to be suspended from Russian approval, Moore said he was confident that other facilities can step up and still be able to meet the needs of the Russian market.


Under the bilateral poultry agreement between the US and Russia, the USDA can audit the suspended facilities relative to the deficiencies cited by VPSS, Moore said. The USDA has the authority under the agreement to re-approve those establishments to resume exporting to the Russian Federation.


"Russia also issued a cautionary statement on 29 other US plants, saying that product originating in those plants was tested and showed levels of certain substances that were higher than Russia allows," Moore said.


Under the terms of the bilateral poultry agreement with Russia, all US poultry shipped to Russia is tested for a variety of substances and must be within the established tolerances in order to gain approval for shipment by USDA, Moore said.


VPSS cited its inability to visit US poultry farms as one of its primary reasons for suspending imports from the 19 plants, he said. However, the US-Russia poultry agreement contains no provision for on-farm visits during routine audits by VPSS, and US companies have in place rigid biosecurity programs that don't allow visitors to enter live poultry production farms to protect human and animal health.


Meanwhile, USAPEEC pledged to work with USDA to determine if in fact these establishments are even interested in remaining eligible to export US poultry to Russia, Moore said.  

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