Russia stands firm on E coli ban on EU vegetables
Jun 7, 2011, 12:50 GMT
Moscow - A European Union delegation sent to Moscow on Tuesday failed to convince Russian health officials to cancel a blanket ban on vegetables imported from the union imposed in the wake of Germany's E coli outbreak.
'The meetings were positive and useful information was exchanged,' said Russian Health Minister Sergei Onishchenko. 'But until we know where the disease is coming from and how to control it ... the ban will remain in effect.'
A group of EU representatives met with Onishchenko and other Russian government members and offered to provide Russia samples of the E coli pathogen which is thought to be responsible for 24 deaths across Europe in recent weeks.
'This will be helpful, it will assist our scientists in preparing our own defences,' Onishchenko said. 'But right now we still don't know enough.'
Speaking at a press conference, Onishchenko listed Russia's terms for an end to the ban, which the Kremlin invoked on Thursday. It forbids the import of all EU-produced vegetable products into Russia with the exception of potatoes.
EU scientists must establish - and inform Russia - how the E coli infection broke out, how it spread, what were the carriers, and how the outbreak is successfully being controlled, he said.
'Right now, the situation is not clear ... and is worrying,' Onishchenko said.
Aleksandr Glushko, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, in an official statement added another condition.
'The EU will again be allowed to import vegetable products into Russia, just as soon as Brussels gives us reliable and verifiable guarantees of the safety of their products,' he said.
EU-produced vegetables are popular in some urban Russian households for their ready availability outside of the country's short growing season, and usually more attractive appearance as compared to Russia-produced vegetables.
Most Russian consumers nonetheless prefer home-grown produce which is said to be tastier, and almost always is cheaper than European imports.
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