Russia's Nyet on U.S. Food

Anthrax outbreak prompted temporary ban on Florida poultry

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By
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Anthrax isn't only making Americans uneasy. The disease put the Russian government so on edge that they temporarily banned all poultry imports from Florida, despite the fact that there have been no reported cases of animals with anthrax.

Russian veterinary service chief Mikhail Kravchuk ordered the ban on Oct. 12, a week after the first anthrax fatality, which was in Boca Raton, Fla. At the same time, the Russian government requested that the U.S. Embassy provide them with information about any anthrax outbreak in the United States, according to a Moscow Times article.

The ban was lifted Oct. 22, after the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) provided the Russian government with written assurances that there have been no reported cases of anthrax occurring in agriculture or in farm areas, reports Terence McElroy, a spokesman for the FDACS.

"Russia rescinded the ban on Monday," says McElroy. "Originally, they wanted to get a good rundown on the cases of anthrax that occurred in Florida." In terms of the Florida food supply, McElroy says there is no reason for anyone -- Russian or American -- to be concerned.

Microbiologist and food safety expert James Dickson, from Iowa State University, agrees.

"Most animals in the U.S. are vaccinated against anthrax," he says. And, even for those that aren't, he says contamination would be very difficult. "If you had to sit down and think about how to deliberately contaminate meat with anthrax spores, it would be a challenge."

Dickson points out that the anthrax scares that are occurring now are mostly high-profile cases, designed to get the maximum media attention. He says it would be very difficult for anyone to contaminate meat on a meaningful enough scale to draw significant media attention.

To the American consumer, he says, "In normal commerce, I would not hesitate to buy what I've always been buying."

What To Do

To read the Russian view of the ban, go to this article from the Moscow Times or this one.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this fact sheet on anthrax.

The University of California at Davis offers more information on anthrax and animals.

SOURCES: Interviews with Terence McElroy, spokesman, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee, Fla.; James Dickson, chair, microbiology department, Iowa State University, Ames; Oct. 17, 2001, Moscow Times

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