SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Retuers] by Maria Kiselyova and Olga Sichkar - July 25, 2014
McDonald's burgers and shakes may become the latest victims of worsening ties between Moscow and Washington after a Russian consumer watchdog agency accused the U.S. chain of sanitary violations.
McDonald's Corp (MCD.N), which opened its first Russian restaurant in Moscow in 1990, became an iconic symbol of flourishing American capitalism during the fall of the Soviet Union.
But its Golden Arches may be in the Kremlin's crosshairs as ties between Moscow and Washington have fallen to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War with consecutive rounds of U.S. sanctions over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis.
"We have identified violations which put the product quality and safety of the entire McDonald's chain in doubt," Anna Popova, the watchdog's head and Russia's chief sanitary inspector, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
The watchdog agency Rospotrebnadzor has previously been accused of acting in the political interests of the Kremlin, banning Georgian wine as Tbilisi strengthened ties with Washington and spirits from Moldova after the former Soviet republic boosted its drive to partner with the European Union.
A Moscow court told Reuters a regional branch of Rospotrebnadzor had asked it to declare production and sales of some McDonald's products illegal after the watchdog agency carried out inspections of McDonald's restaurants last June.
The regulator says the company is deceiving consumers about the energy value of its Cheeseburger Royales, Filet-o-Fish, Cheeseburgers and Chicken Burgers and about nutritional value of its milkshakes and ice creams.
Its also said in a statement that Caesar wrap sandwiches and a vegetable salad were contaminated with coliform bacteria, which indicates the likelihood of food poisoning.
McDonald's, which boasts of long lines at its restaurants across Moscow, some of which sit in view of the Kremlin's red walls, said it had not received any complaint from the regulator and had no information about the lawsuit.
"For the 25 years that McDonald's has been working in the Russian market, its main priority has been to provide quality and safe products to our visitors," the company said by email.
It added that its calculations of energy and nutritional value were based on the methodologies approved by state Russian institution.
The court will hold a preliminary hearing on Aug. 13 with the key hearing likely to be scheduled for September, the court's spokeswoman said.
McDonald's operates about 400 restaurants in Russia and sees the country as one of its top seven major markets outside the United States and Canada, according to its 2013 annual report.
The fast-food chain has often become subject to boycotts in various countries to oppose U.S. actions. In 2003, French boycotted McDonald's to protest against the war in Iraq.
In April, some Russian politicians called for all McDonald's outlets in the country to be shut after the company closed its restaurants in Crimea, whose annexation by Russia in March triggered U.S. and European sanctions.
Photo Credit: Reuters
Banned imports of European eel fry alleged to be flooding into Japan via China
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Japan News] - July 25, 2014 -
Japan has been importing from China large quantities of European eel, an endangered species whose export from Europe is forbidden, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
Importers of the eels claim the trading is legitimate, with export certificates from Chinese authorities. However, the Fisheries Agency plans to ask Beijing to investigate the exports. The agency is skeptical of the explanations provided by the Chinese side that European eels shipped to Japan could have matured in 2013 from eel fry imported to China from France in 2010.
The European Union banned the export of the eel, which do not breed outside of Europe, in December of the same year after it was designated as an endangered species by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention.
If the Chinese side's claims are true, it means the eels were farmed in China for at least three years and seven months. Eel fry are usually farmed for about a year in Japan, while the Chinese side insists the average period in China is two years.
But an industry expert says that eels farmed for more than one year tend to become hard and unsuitable for eating. Others argue it is unlikely that eels would be raised for such a long time out of consideration for economic efficiency.
The agency will ask China to reveal details on whether the traceability of the eels from farming to shipment has been properly managed, as it considers the farming period of the European eel imported to Japan to be too long.
"My guess is that eel fry have been smuggled from Europe to China after the export ban was imposed," an importer of the European eels said.
According to trade statistics, 55.8 tons, or about 223,000 European eels, that were alive and originated in France were shipped to Japan via China from January to May. This year's imports will likely set a new record.
The export of European eels to China increased in 1990s, but catches of European eels saw a sharp drop. The species was listed in Appendix II of the Washington Convention in 2009, as it may face extinction if no restrictions are imposed on trade.
Though species listed in Appendix II can be traded when an exporting country allows it, the EU placed a total ban on its export in 2010