Russian retailers call for legalisation of up to 1% foreign DNA in meats

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Meat Beef Lamb Pork Poultry Processing and packaging Innovation

Beef mince has been contaminated with pork DNA, raising serious halal concerns
Beef mince has been contaminated with pork DNA, raising serious halal concerns
Russia’s Association of Retail Trade Companies has appealed to the government to legalise the content of foreign DNA in meat products at a level not higher than 1%, according to a spokesperson from the organisation Svetlana Chebareva.

The appeal will be evaluated until June by Russia’s veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor and a number of other government bodies. However, it has already met with sharp criticism from officials and some market participants.

In a domestic situation, you could put beef through a meat grinder, then you could wash the grinder and mince pork through it,” ​said Chebareva. “You would then have a beef-DNA-in-pork farce, as it is impossible to completely neutralise one from the other.​” 

However, representatives of Rosselkhoznadzor have already spoken out against the proposal, claiming it would cause problems from both a sanitary and an ethical point of view.

Strict stance

Ask the faithful how they would react to the fact that the halal or kosher products ​[they purchased] could have 1% pork content ​[in them],​” said Alexei Alexeenko, assistant to the head of Rosselkhoznadzor.

Svetlana Maximova, member of State Duma Committee on Agricultural Issues, added: “We should adopt a strict stance on this issue. This is not a topic of conversation and not an excuse for the stores. They should change gloves for different work, while for each type of meat there must be separate knives and boards. The normal consumer does not understand how there could be horse cells in beef, for example.​”

She called on government bodies to continue their policy of zero tolerance on the presence of foreign DNA in meat products.

Previously, during one inspection, representatives of Rosselkhoznadzor found horsemeat in pork products at an Auchan outlet. The veterinary watchdog asserted that this was a violation, as there are no allowable rates on the presence of horsemeat in pork products.

Controversial position

Yet meat processors have complained that, during inspections, Rosselkhoznadzor uses the polymerase chain reaction method, which is believed to be one of the most accurate techniques for checking products for the presence of foreign DNA. According to Chebareva this technology is not completely objective, as it determines the presence of foreign DNA in qualitative, rather than quantitative terms. So even the existence of the smallest particles from another product gives a positive result.

In response to this, Rosselkhoznadzor’s Alexeenko raised controversy by saying that, during inspections, the state body allowed the presence of foreign particles at a rate of no more than 1%.

Meanwhile, Russian sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor, which is in fact the primary body authorised to check meat products on the country’s grocery shelves, has refrained from commenting on the issue.

A spokesperson for one retail chain suggested that the Russian authorities actually do allow some presence of foreign DNA in meat products and claimed grocery store representatives were aware of that. According to him, the proposal from the Association of Retailers would just legalise the issue.

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