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Russia set to ban New Zealand beef

Russia has a record of banning or restricting food imports for alleged violations of sanitary norms

Russia said Thursday it would impose a temporary ban on imports of beef and beef by-products from New Zealand from next week over what it called "repeated violations" of sanitary norms.

New Zealand beef was found to contain listeria bacteria and traces of a banned feed additive called ractopamine, Russia's agricultural safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement.

It said that "to ensure the country's food safety" it "is bringing in temporary restrictions on imports into Russia of beef and beef products from New Zealand from February 6."

Ractopamine, which is used to promote the development of lean meat, is banned by Russia and the European Union (EU) due to human health risk concerns but is allowed in the United States, Canada and Brazil, among other countries.

Russia in 2013 suspended meat imports from the United States, citing the use of ractopamine.

The statement added that the watchdog was also pondering a temporary ban on fish from New Zealand after it was found to contain mercury and listeria microbes.

Russia has a record of banning or restricting food imports for alleged violations of sanitary norms.

The measure was notably used against a range of European foods after the EU slapped sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and support for east Ukrainian rebels in 2014.

New Zealand has a high reputation for the quality of its food exports, where it specialises in beef, lamb, dairy products and wine.

In the third quarter of 2016, according to Russian customs service statistics, meat and meat by-product imports from New Zealand to Russia were worth $4.54 million (4.2 million euros) and comprised more than 12 percent of imports in this category.