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Russia considers fines for selling ASF-infected meat

Russia may introduce turnover-based fines for the unscrupulous meat processors accepting pork with African Swine Fever (ASF).

Russian vice prime minister Alexey Gordeev announced that at a recent press conference. The government has been studying the African Swine Fever (ASF) situation and recognised the rising number of outbreaks, in which meat infected with ASF eventually hit the grocery shelves in the country, Gordeev said.

Sausages in a Russian supermarket. Some pieces of pig meat sold in Russia might have had the ASF genome. The virus does not affect humans. Photo: 123RF
Sausages in a Russian supermarket. Some pieces of pig meat sold in Russia might have had the ASF genome. The virus does not affect humans. Photo: 123RF

ASF genome in supermarkets in 39 regions

In 2019, the most noteworthy event in this respect in Russia occurred in the Itera meat processing plant in Kaluga region, when sausages containing ASF-genome ended up in supermarkets in 39 Russian regions, i.e. almost half of the country’s territory.

About that incident, Gordeev said, “It could be seen with a naked eye that the company [Itera] had been using some dodgy raw materials supply schemes. The regional government must sort out as soon as possible where the infected pork came from and engage law enforcement agencies. We must work in a special regime with those kind of companies, controlling them on a daily basis, and go public with similar egregious cases.”

ASF infected meat sold and consumed

According to Russia’s veterinary watchdog, Rosselhoznadzor, Itera produced several batches of sausages containing ASF and distributed them across 136 supermarkets and food stores in Russia in October of 2019. A batch of 4 tonnes was seized at a warehouse and destroyed, but a huge amount of infected meat was sold and consumed by the customers.

Gordeev added, “Besides, it is important to adopt new regulations in order to make it possible to force those kind of companies to stop operation and to subject them to some substantial fines, for example of 3% from their annual turnover, so they would never do that [use infected meat] again.”

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Cases with ASF infected meat are being found in Russian supermarkets on a regular basis. In most cases, the meat contains the ASF genome, not live virus.

More efforts needed on the Far East

In the meantime the virus keeps being reported in live animals Russia’s Far East from time to time. This is mostly in wild boar in locations not too far from the border with China. According to the latest figures of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), in the Far East, the virus so far has been re-introduced into Russia via China in the regions Amur, Yevreyskaya, Khabarovsky Kray and Primorsky Kray.