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Russians may soon say goodbye to US bourbon whiskey

August 05, 2014, 16:53 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS / Valery Sharifulin

 MOSCOW, August 05. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian sanitary authorities doubt quality of the US whiskey and McDonald’s products as well as American fowl. Though Russian-US trade turnover is insignificant, experts say possible bans are a reaction to anti-Russian sanctions. They warn that mutual claims can end up in the WTO.

Russian federal watchdog for customers’ rights Rospotrebnadzor plans to ban import of bourbon whiskey Kentucky Gentleman. According to the agency, the product of the US company Barton 1792 Distillery does not comply with sanitary and epidemiologic norms as the sanitary service has detected phthalates (esters of phthalatic acid) that it says can seriously harm people’s health.

Rospotrebnadzor will check all alcoholic imports in earnest, director of the Centre for Studies of Central and Regional Alcohol Markets Vadim Drobiz told Izvestia daily.

“I think detection of dangerous substances in whiskey is an early signal that there is no more immunity for anybody on the market of premium imported alcohol. To an extent, this is a response to the US and European sanctions. We are also toughening control over products they import,” he said.

American alcohol accounts for only a marginal share of the Russian market, while the US whiskey is a mere 7.6% of total whiskey import. For this reason and due to high price for these products a common Russian customer will hardly notice it if US alcohol vanishes from shop shelves, Drobiz said. Meanwhile, the ban would hit US producers interested in emerging markets such as Russia.

“This will not hit prices,” manager of a Moscow alcohol distributor told Moskovsky Komsomolets daily. “However, if Rospotrebnadzor sanctions British alcohol, whiskey price will rocket times. But this will not mean the people will buy alcohol at exorbitant prices. They will just exclude whiskey from their diet and switch to affordable beverages.

Before the bourbon affair, Rospotrebnadzor complained about harmful substances detected in some popular meals sold by the US fast food chain McDonald’s. The service demanded in court that the company was prohibited from selling some products.

Fowl is another US food item on the black list facing new quality claims. Russian veterinary and phytosanitary service Rosselkhoznadzor has found dangerous microorganisms in poultry produced by Tyson Foods and Sanderson Farms. The agency earlier found tetracycline antibiotics in supplies from four US facilities. Besides, turkey is not to be imported because of use of feed additive ractopamine.

The watchdog’s chief Sergey Dankvert has already warned that if new violations are detected concerns “can spill over into restrictions on US supplies”. Meanwhile, experts fear mutual trade complaints can end up in WTO trial.

“Any claims against other countries should be backed with credible evidence,” professor at the Higher School of Economics department of trade politics Aleksey Portansky told ITAR-TASS. “The US can use WTO mechanisms, and Russia will have to explain bans on import.”

Whether such bans would be perceptible for the US, depended on annual turnover, the expert said. America previously supplied significant amounts of fowl but nobody would go to court with trifle amounts such as in whiskey case, he said.


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