Hungry Russia Is Destroying Food and Banning California Wines

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin (photo: Sasha Mordovets, Getty Images)

Russia, the subject of trade restrictions by the West because of belligerency in Ukraine and Crimea, has levied its own bans on most food imports from the European Union, Canada, Australia and the United States. This has led to the spectacle, reported in recent weeks, of truckloads of illegally imported fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products being destroyed.

California took a hit last year when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his ban on food imports. Russia was the state’s 15th largest agriculture partner for exports in 2012, with a total value of $144.7 million, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

This week, it was revealed that Russia's consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor has banned three California wines, although the reason given is health, not retaliation. Rospotrebnadzor said the wines were banned because they showed high levels of phthalic acid and pesticides.

The three wines are the semi-dry white wine Gnarly Head Chardonnay, produced by Delicato Family Vineyards; the dry red wine Geyser Peak Merlot, produced by Geyser Peak Winery; and the sweet white wine Crane Lake Moscato, produced by Crane Lake Cellars.

“Phthalic acid . . . can cause functional and organic changes in the central and peripheral nerve system . . . also oncological illnesses and fertility problems in men and women,” Rospotrebnadzor said on its website.

The Moscow Times didn’t come right out and say it—that might not be prudent—but their story noted, “Rospotrebnadzor has been actively imposing bans on food from Western countries in what some observers see as a politically motivated move targeted at imports from countries that slapped sanctions on Russia.”  

It is not the first time Russia has targeted alcohol imports. Last year, the country banned 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey for phthalates and Jack Daniels Honey Liqueur for benzyl benzoate, which is used as a pesticide.

Last December, the Russian government suggested that it may ban French wines, much to the chagrin of importers. Earlier this month, government officials took a shot at wine imports from Georgia (the country, not the state) but did not level sanctions.

Russia’s response to Western sanctions escalated last month when the government issued a decree that all food illegally imported would be confiscated and destroyed. More than 350,000 Russians have signed a petition protesting the actions that will result in destruction of hundreds of tons of food in a country that has suffered famine and food deprivation throughout its modern history.

One hundred and fourteen tons of pork that were labeled from Ukraine, but were suspected  to be from Denmark, were destroyed earlier this month in the city of Samara, according to The New Yorker. A couple hundred tons of cheese, nectarines, tomatoes and more pork were disposed of in other cities.  

That all would have made for quite the feast with a little California wine to wash it down.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:   

Russia Bans Three U.S. Wines (Moscow Times)

Russia Adds Three California Wines to Import Ban List (by Jared M. Feldschreiber, UPI)

Russia Suspends Sale of Three California Wines (by Chris Mercer, Decanter)

A Country Haunted by Starvation Burns Its Food (by Masha Gessen, The New Yorker)

Russians Shocked as Banned Western Food Destroyed (by Sarah Rainsford, BBC)

Russia Is Destroying Its Food (Stratfor Global Intelligence)

Leave a comment