Food Fights

by Andrew Stuttaford

As Russia increasingly reasserts itself within the Soviet sphere (the news today from Ukraine is not good), one of the (relatively) benign weapons it periodically deploys is the use of selective bans on the import of food and/or drink – always, of course, on grounds of contamination and the like – from former Soviet republics that it wants to push around. Amongst the products affected have been wine from Georgia and Moldova and a range of foods from Ukraine. The irritatingly independent Baltic states have not been spared. Dairy products from Lithuania were blocked last year, prompting a “freedom cheese” campaign in response. That ban may now be easing, but the other two Baltic countries are now feeling the pressure.  Late last month exports of fish and dairy products from a number of Estonian companies fell foul of Moscow’s busy Veterinary and Phytosanitary Oversight Service.

That was not the end of it. The Baltic Times reports:

Russia has halted the sale of Latvian canned sprats, blaming low standards, reports nozare.lv. Around 24,000 cans of sprats will be taken out of circulation in Russia after lab results showed that the contents of the canned sprats are not in line with standards, a Russian consumer group Rosselkhoznadzor said. The moves by Russian agencies appear to be politically motivated, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview with the LNT television. This is strongly suggested by the fact that similar measures are also being taken against other Baltic companies, said Dombrovskis. There is no reason to believe at the moment that Latvian companies’ products have problems with quality because the Latvian Food and Veterinary Service has not established any violations, at least not on the part of “Randa”, one of the companies affected by Russian agencies’ actions.

Elsewhere, fish cannery company Randa said it was baffled at the Russian federal service Rosselkhoznadzor’s” statement regarding excessively high chemical levels allegedly found in the company’s sprats exported to Russia, the company’s co-owner and board member, Oskars Grosmanis, told the “Nozare.lv” business portal

According to a news agency ITAR-TASS … sprats produced by Randa have been found to contain excessively high levels of benzopyrene. From now on, sprats produced by Randa are under close scrutiny in Russia, Rosselkhoznadzor said.

“We are completely baffled. We have received no official information but, judging from the data posted at the website, the maximum level has been exceeded 35 times, which is totally absurd. In such a case, it should have been a box of coals, not a canned fish,” said Grosmanis.

Well, Latvian šprotes  (which are delicious, incidentally) are available in the US.  Thanks to the might of the internet, 15 tins of “Riga Sprats,” smoked and packed in sunflower oil are (I hope) now on the way to me. Freedom sprats!