Russia Bans U.S. Poultry Imports

As of January 1, Russia is blocking imports of U.S. poultry because of concerns about chlorine rinses, which are routinely used by poultry processors in the United States to kill pathogens that can cause food poisoning among consumers.

Despite what Reuters calls “overwhelming scientific evidence” showing chlorine is a safe and effective disinfectant for use in the poultry industry, Russia has reduced the allowable limit on imported poultry from 200 to 50 milligrams per kilogram, essentially banning imports of chicken meat from the U.S., where chlorine is the primary disinfectant.

Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), said the U.S. industry will be unable to comply with Russia’s restrictions and that it will not consider abandoning the use of chlorine.

Chlorine has been used safely and effectively in the poultry industry for more than 25 years to quickly kill microorganisms on food surfaces and prevent cross-contamination. The U.S. poultry industry is concerned that the elimination of chlorine washes will put Russian citizens at a higher risk of contracting foodborne illnesses caused by E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and other pathogens. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that the Russian government allow the continued use of sufficiently concentrated chlorine washes to maintain the safety of the country’s poultry supply and to protect Russians’ health.

U.S. and Russian officials met on January 17 to discuss the implications of this ban and the impact it will have on food safety.

Read more about the important role chlorine plays in safe food handling and preparation – from farm to table – on our website.

(Joan Rose, PhD, is the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University and a member of the Water Quality and Health Council)