U.S. presses Russia to "immediately" lift meat trade ban

The United States on Monday urged Russia to immediately lift a ban on imports of U.S. meat products because of the feed additive ractopamine and to honor the commitments it made last year when it joined the World Trade Organization.

"The United States is very disappointed that Russia has taken action to suspend all imports of U.S. meat, which is produced to the highest safety standards in the world," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a joint statement.

The ban, which went into effect on Monday, has been in the works for weeks. It stems from Russia's concern over the use of ractopamine, a growth stimulant used in U.S. beef, pork and poultry product to make meat leaner.

Some countries ban the additive out of concern that trace elements could remain in the meat and cause health problems.

However, the U.N. food safety body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, in July said the additive had "no impact on human health" if residue stays within recommended levels.

"Russia's failure to adopt the Codex standard raises questions about its commitment to the global trading system," Kirk and Vilsack said.

"Despite repeated U.S. requests to discuss the safety of ractopamine, Russia has refused to engage in any constructive dialogue and instead has simply suspended U.S. meat imports. The United States calls on Russia to restore market access for U.S. meat and meat products immediately and to abide by its obligations as a Member of the World Trade Organization."

(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler)