A shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt that was initially refused entry into Russia may still reach US athletes in Sochi before the Winter Olympics begin on Friday, says a leading Russian food safety official.
The shipment, which was destined for US athletes, is currently on hold in a temperature-controlled facility at Newark Airport in New Jersey. It contains 5,000 single-serve cups of blueberry, strawberry and peach Chobani and multi-serve containers of plain Chobani.
Russia officials placed a block on the shipment because it did not hold a Customs Union Certificate – a document confirming the quality of production to approved standards within the Customs Union, which consists of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Playing down concerns, Nikolai Vlasov, deputy head of the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rospotrebnadzor), told DairyReporter.com that an exemption will likely be made for the shipment.
“They have no Customs Union Certificate, and we have no bilaterally-agreed certificate,” said Vlasov. “Our American colleagues tried to send the yogurt with a US export certificate, which is based on the legislation of the United States of America.”
“Legislation is legislation, but we can find a way," he said.
“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 pasteurisation.”
Resolve the issue
New York-based Chobani, the most popular Greek yogurt brand in America, is an official sponsor of Team USA at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
According to Vlasov, there is a chance that the Greek yogurt shipment will reach US athletes competing in Sochi before events begin.
“We are trying to resolve the issue,” said Vlasov.
“I do not believe we will need to spend much time on this.”
"Get past 'nyet'..."
US Senator and Greek yogurt advocate, Charles Schumer, who brought the issue to the nation's attention yesterday, urged Russia to “get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the US Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes.”
In a letter to the Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the US, Schumer asked Russian authorities to “accept the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s AMS sanitary certificate for a one-time non-commercial shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt to US athletes.”
“I understand the need for high food safety standards for dairy products. However, the US government has confirmed that sanitary standards have been met to ensure that this yogurt will be safe for consumption by American citizens attending and participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics," he said.
In a letter on behalf of Chobani, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also called on Rospotrebnadzor to accept the certificate.
In response to his efforts, Chobani has thanked Schumer for helping it "complete the delivery of Chobani Greek yogurt to Sochi to naturally power our athletes all the way to the finish line."
"This is a time when the focus should be on our athletes, so we're just trying to do right by them in getting them food they enjoy from home," said a statement issued by the manufacturer.