A Russian consumer rights organisation asked the General Prosecution Office and the Agricultural Ministry to consider imposing criminal liability for businesses selling meat contaminated with African Swine Fever (ASF).
During a recent series of ASF outbreaks in Russia, ASF-contaminated meat was massively discovered on grocery shelves in more than 10 Russian regions, according to a Russian consumer initiative. This means there is a growing problem of the use of infected pork in the production process.
However, due to a moratorium on unscheduled inspections of businesses in Russia, none of the sellers caught with infected meat bore any liability. “Some of them are systematic violators. Among other things, salmonella, listeria, prohibited drugs, rat nails, and so on were found in their products,” the organisation said.
The authors of the appeal also pointed out that sausages and other meat products, if not adequately treated, can become a source of infection and further spread of ASF. This is particularly dangerous as new ASF outbreaks appear in the country. “There is no guarantee that the meat of recently killed [contaminated] animals will not appear on the shelves of Russian stores in one form or another. It is obvious that if the practice of using contaminated raw materials is not stopped and the most severe sanctions are not applied to violators, the scale of the spread of the disease will increase,” the authors of the appeal stated.
The spread of the disease could lead to a drop in the pig population in Russia, triggering a hike in prices on the Russian pork market, Oleg Pavlov, head of the organisation said.
Besides, ASF-contaminated food could not be entirely safe for humans. “According to the latest research, though the virus is not dangerous to humans, there are documented reactions [of human bodies to ASF] in the form of production of antibodies against it. This indicates an ASF attempt to infect the body and the possibility of a serious weakening of the immune system,” Pavlov said.
Yuri Kovalev, chairman of the Russian Union of Pork Producers, agreed that the business that deliberately sold contaminated meat should be punished. Sergei Shmelev, board member of the National Union of Meat Processors, in turn, suggested that pig farms would bear the responsibility for selling infected animals. In his opinion, it is much easier to detect the virus at the farm, and sellers may not be aware that their products are contaminated.