Health and company officials await more details from Russia on its claim that chicken from the Tyson Foods facility in Cumming (click for map) had traces of antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.
Beginning Friday, the country plans to no longer accept chicken from the Cumming plant, according to information received by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Based on preliminary information we’ve received through one of our trade organizations, the Russians claim they found traces of an antibiotic that is not even used by Tyson Foods,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an e-mail.
“Tyson’s live poultry operations use only antibiotics that have been approved for use by the U.S. government.”
In addition to Tyson, Russia has also made the same claim against two other U.S. chicken plants, Sanderson Farms in Hammond, La., and Peco Foods in Canton, Miss.
Bryn Burkard, USDA spokeswoman, said the agency has asked for more information from Russian authorities.
“Once we do have the information, we will work with the establishments here,” she said. “At this point, we don’t have any other information except for the fact that there were drug residues found. Until we have more information, we cannot act.”
Mickelson said the company is not worried about other customers possibly following Russia’s lead, saying they have “confidence in the safety of our products.”
“Since we have other U.S. poultry plants that are approved to ship to Russia, the suspension of the Cumming facility should not affect our overall international sales,” he said.
Toby Moore, spokesman for the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, said the country’s decision would likely have little impact, given the size of Tyson and its ability to divert Russian exports to another plant.
The announcement was not much of a surprise, Moore said, as Russia is no stranger to banning chicken imports.
“This is not an unusual occurrence,” he said. “Russia does this periodically.
“If the Russians said they found some residues, I can’t speak to specific plants, but if they said they found something, then you’ve got to prove them wrong.”
Moore said Russia occasionally inspects plants and performs an annual audit to make sure suppliers are in compliance with the country’s specific standards.
“They’ve been doing that for 10 years,” he said. “They’re supposed to come in April or May to do it again. Russia has its own way of doing things.”
Mickelson said Tyson has increased its presence in Africa, China, the Middle East and other international locations in recent years.
“It is also important to note that while Russia is an important leg quarter market for our company, our leg quarter sales to other regions of the world have been growing in recent years,” he said.
E-mail Jennifer Sami at firstname.lastname@example.org.