Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia may turn into market for low quality products with WTO's help

Russia's accession to the WTO and plans to expand the Customs space brought unexpected and dangerous problems, Russia's Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennady Onishchenko believes. Based on the analysis of the work conducted by the Epidemiology Department in 2012, Russia could become a place for harmful and substandard products if appropriate measures are not taken.

On Friday, August 23, Rossiyskaya Gazeta published the "Decree of the Chief State Sanitary Inspector of the Russian Federation dated June 14, 2013 #30" with an analysis of the past year and priorities for the coming period. The Decree was made public more than two months after its creation.

The Decree indicates that Onishchenko's main concern is an inflow of substandard food products into Russia due to the country's accession to the WTO and the expansion of the borders of the Customs Union.

The Chief Sanitary Inspector of the country reported that each year the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare investigates nearly 2 million food samples for sanitary-chemical and microbiological parameters. Onishchenko identified regions where in 2012 the proportion of samples that do not meet hygienic requirements was significantly higher than the national average.

- Microbiological indicators (average - 4, 75 percent): Nenets Autonomous District

- 18.23, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) - 11.87, Novgorod Oblast - 11.15, Karachay-Cherkessia - 11.0, Moscow - 9.89, the Republic of Tuva - 9.72, Magadan region - 9.47, Arkhangelsk region - 9.21;

- For chemical indicators (average - 2.77 percent): Novgorod Oblast - 9.83, the Republic of Ingushetia - 9.30, Yaroslavl Oblast - 8.63, Sverdlovsk Oblast - 7.34, Kurgan region - 6.53 , Vladimir region - 6.22, Vologda region - 6.10.

The Chief Sanitary Inspector stated that lawmakers changed the approaches to the supervisory activities. The number of inspections was reduced (more than three-fold over five years) and the notification procedure for commencing entrepreneurship activity was introduced. Against this background, there was a two-fold decrease in the number of administrative offense protocols and three-fold reduction in the number of persons temporarily suspended from work based on resolutions of the Epidemiology Department.

This is happening at the time when Russia opened its borders for imported products after the WTO accession and enlargement of the Customs Union, Onishchenko warned. He is concerned about the uncontrolled use abroad of new technologies, medicines, pesticides during cultivation of plants and animals for slaughter, "which has already led to the formation of new strains of bacteria highly resistant to antibiotics that can lead to the formation of persistent epidemic outbreaks of infectious diseases with severe clinical course."

As evidence, Onishchenko provided a list of the world's most dangerous cases of diseases and poisoning from the use of poor-quality food products. For example, in 2011 a rise in incidence caused by Escherichia coli was registered in the European Union. As a result, over 3 million people fell ill in European countries, and 50 people have died. In October of 2011, cases of botulism illness associated with the consumption of "Bio olives" stuffed with almonds and packaged in glass jars were recorded in Finland.

In Germany in September of 2012 there were over 11,000 cases of acute gastroenteritis in children. According to the investigation conducted by Robert Koch Institute, a probable factor in the transmission of the infection was frozen strawberries imported from China. In the Czech Republic and Poland in September of 2012 deaths from alcohol poisoning with products containing methanol were recorded.

In March of 2013 in Belgium Listeria was found during the production control in frozen smoked bacon. Cases of horse meat entering into the production of beef and containing a veterinary drug were investigated in the European Union in 2013. In the People's Republic of China in September of 2008 294,000 cases of kidney stones in infants caused by the use of infant formula contaminated melamine was recorded, and so on.

Onishchenko said that the current European (and probably Chinese) standards of food safety compliance monitoring take into account the interests of the economy, rather than the protection of human health, and low-quality food products may rush into the markets of the Russian Federation. Such cases have been already registered, for example in 2012 in Irkutsk region where there were 16 cases of salmonellosis (pathogen Salmonella Oranienburg) caused by  consumption of formula Belgian baby formula designed for babies from birth to six months old.

In this regard, the Russian Federation has committed to develop appropriate health standards for approval by the WTO, as well as reserved the right to maintain domestic norms and regulations for residues of a number of chemicals in food, according to the Chief Sanitary Inspector. In particular, scientific substantiation of health risk at admission of ractopamine and tetracycline antibiotics into food of animal production was prepared.

In the final part of the Decree Onishchenko gave several orders to subordinate institutions and organizations engaged in the production, storage, transportation, sale and disposal of food products to take measures to meet demands placed on them by mandatory requirements. Onishchenko took personal responsibility for monitoring of the implementation of the decree.

Lyuba Lulko


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