The USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) made its comments after Russia banned US poultry treated with chlorine as an anti-microbial treatment during processing. US poultry shipments were effectively outlawed when a new Russian law came into force on 1 January. The EU imposed a similar ban12 years ago, which has become one of the longest-running trade disputes with the US. Washington last year filed a grievance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to overturn the ruling.
Russian and US officials are due to meet for high-level negotiations on 17 January in a bid to reach an agreement for an export market worth $US800m in 2008 and one forecast to top US$700m last year.
“We're cautiously optimistic that the talks will result in a successful outcome that will allow US poultry to continue to be shipped to Russia,” Toby Moore, the USAPEEC’s vice-president of communications, told FoodProductionDaily.com.
Following the New Year Russian ban, Washington said the measure would have a "devastating impact" on the US poultry industry and trade, and raise the costs of poultry products for Russian consumers. Russia's chief sanitary official Gennady Onishchenko last week said he hoped a compromise would be found at talks in Moscow, which he agreed to hold after telephone talks with James Miller, the USDA's undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.
But the US industry group said that whatever the outcome, it would not consider abandoning the use of chlorine because of the lack of alternatives that are as effective as the chemical in destroying harmful bacteria. Since the EU ban in 1998, the US industry has developed a number of other anti-microbial agents – four of which have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, these were rejected outright by EU trade ministers triggering the WTO action, said the USAPEEC.
The body has repeatedly insisted that chlorine used in the rinse and chilling cycles on poultry is entirely safe.
USAPEEC president James H Sumner said: “The US has been using chlorine as our primary antimicrobial treatment for poultry for decades and our scientific research has demonstrated that when used within our existing guidelines, there is absolutely no chlorine residue that is detectable on the finished product.”
He added that the chlorine restriction for Russia is even lower than the levels commonly used in US municipal water supplies - with Russia stating their requirement at 0.1 parts per million while the US water systems uses 3 to 5 parts per million.
Russia was the top US market for poultry exports for almost two decades, and has only recently been bested by shipments to China. However, US exports to Russia are set to decline after the government there introduced a quota system that imposes decreasing permitted volumes every year until 2012. But the USAPEEC said it believed there was a long-term market for US poultry in Russia that would not compete with domestic production.