Russians Say Nyet to Chobani Yogurt

Feb. 10, 2014
Dairy trade dispute keeps 5,000 cups of Chobani yogurt in Newark, N.J., rather than feeding U.S. Olympians in Sochi.

A diplomatic dispute over dairy exports to Russia has kept 5,000 cups of Chobani yogurt stuck in a Newark, N.J., refrigerated warehouse instead of feeding U.S. Olympians in Sochi.

News reports say the yogurt has been blocked from leaving by Russian officials who claim the U.S. failed to provide specific health- and safety-related paperwork necessary to allow the food to reach their country. The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) say it's the latest salvo in a 3.5-year-old trade dispute.

In September 2010, Russia made changes in the paperwork and health certificate required to export dairy products to that country. USDEC and NMPF say U.S. government-issued statements have long accompanied product shipments in international trade and provide assurances regarding product safety. The two U.S. dairy organizations say Russia has refused to "lay out a reasonable path that would lead to a long-term solution."

Some U.S. officials say the paperwork is unnecessarily complex and meant only to keep U.S. dairy products out of Russia and its Customs Union partners, Kazakhstan and Belarus. An Associated Press report quoted the office of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer as saying the certificate required a statement that no cattle in the U.S. have any of a long list of diseases, which he said would be impossible to determine. None of the diseases is related to food safety, a Schumer aide said.

Chobani, a "sponsor of Team USA," and many other yogurt companies and plants call Schumer's New York state home, so he has gone to bat for the company. He reportedly sent letters to Olympic officials and the Russian embassy in Washington urging the country to allow the yogurt shipment.

(BTW: Comedy Central's Steven Colbert had a humorous but offensive-to-some commentary on the kerfuffle and the conditions in Sochi: )

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