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Chobani donates blocked Sochi Olympics shipment to food banks

By Mark Astley+

14-Feb-2014
Last updated on 14-Feb-2014 at 12:12 GMT

Chobani donates blocked Sochi Olympics shipment to food banks

Chobani has donated more than 5,000 pots of Greek yogurt originally intended for US athletes at the Winter Olympics in Sochi to food banks in New York and New Jersey.

New York-based Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani, an official sponsor of Team USA at the Sochi Winter Olympics, announced yesterday that it will deliver the yogurt to Saint John’s Soup Kitchen in New Jersey and Food Bank for New York City.

The donated yogurt had been destined for US athletes in Sochi, but was denied entry into Russia earlier this month. Russian officials placed a block on the shipment because it did not hold a Customers Union Certificate – a document confirming the quality of production to standards within the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan).

The shipment, which contained 5,000 single-serve cups of blueberry, strawberry and peach Chobani and multi-serve containers of plain Chobani, has been sat in a temperature-controlled facility at Newark Airport in New Jersey since then.

Now, half way through the Winter Olympics and with no resolution in sight, Chobani has instead donated the yogurt to the disadvantaged in New York and Newark.

Saint John's Soup Kitchen in Newark, New Jersey is one of recipients of the Chobani Olympics shipment.

“It’s been a long, cold winter and we’re happy incredible organizations in New York and New Jersey who share our vision to provide nutritious foods, will be able to serve fresh cups of Chobani to those in need,” said Chobani founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya.

“We’ll be waiting for our athletes when they come home while cheering them on every step of the way,” Ulukaya added.

"Silver - or gold - lining"

US Senator and Greek yogurt advocate Charles Schumer broke news of the Russian block on Chobani’s Olympics shipment on 4 February.

He and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) urged the Russian Ambassador to the US and the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rospotrebnadzor) to accept a USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) sanitary certificate for a “one-time, non-commercial shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt to US athletes.”

Despite these pleas, the Russian government “has not budged,” said a statement issued by Schumer.

“Chobani and I fought hard to deliver their yogurt to our Olympic athletes in Sochi," said Schumer. "While we did not prevail, there is a silver – or gold – lining in the news that the yogurt will be donated to hungry men, women and children in New York and New Jersey.” 

No exemption

Speaking with DairyReporter.com following initial reports, Dr Nikolai Vlasov, deputy head of Rospotrebnadzor, said that an exemption would likely be made to allow the shipment to enter the Russian Federation.

“Legislation is legislation, but we can find a way,” Vlasov said at the time.

“We will be able to allow the transport of these goods because we understand that they are for the consumption of US athletes and they are produced on the basis of pasteurization,” he added.

More than a week on, no exemption has been granted by Russian authorities.

Several attempts by DairyReporter.com to contact Vlasov today were unsuccessful.

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