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Tatev Khachatryan

Salmonella-Tainted Poultry Enters Armenian Market Instead of Being Destroyed

Armenia’s State Food Safety Service: Violating Food Safety Norms Instead of Enforcing Them

Earlier this week, around 80 people got hospitalized with food poisoning in Armenia’s Armavir Province. They ate chicken sandwiches which are suspected of having salmonella. A criminal case has been initiated.

The Control Chamber report of 2017 shows several cases when chicken with microbial deviations entered the Armenian market with the permission of the State Food Safety Service (SFSS), after a second examination “proved” them safe.

Months ago, after Hetq's investigation of imported chicken meat, we did an article proving that the SFSS did not exercise proper border control, resulting in meat with salmonella entering the Armenian market.

On February 8 and March 2 this year, 7 and 50 tons of Brazilian poultry were impounded on the border crossing because of microbial infections. They were imported from Brazil. The supplier was Seara Alimentos Ltd.

At the end of March, Hetq sent a request to the State Revenue Committee (SRC) and the SFSS asking about the fate of the above-mentioned meat.

In April, the SRC replied that no order to destroy the poultry had yet been issued.

 According to Hetq’s information, 6,930 kilograms of frozen Brazilian poultry imported by Meat Import LLC were contracted to another company, Ardelicates LLC. The salmonella-infected poultry was to be processed and sold as semi-smoked ​​sausage.

Such a decision by the SFSS, however, contradicts the existing technical regulations, since semi-smoked sausage cannot be made of chicken, especially when it’s been frozen more than once.

However, on May 16, the SRC reported that the issue of the 6,930 kilograms of frozen Brazilian chicken is included in the agenda of the Inter-Agency Customs Commission on Destruction Organizing and Coordinating to take place on May 23.

Director of Meat Import LLC Levon Badeyan confirms that the meat is in the process of destruction now, since it does not comply with the Eurasian standards.

The director said that though they wanted to sell meat somehow, but the SFSS reported that the bacteria could not be eliminated, even at high temperatures.

We asked Mr. Badeyan to provide us with relevant documents, acts and photos after the destruction. He promised to do so.

This is not the first time that Meat Import has imported tainted meat. In 2016, 19.8 tons of frozen chopped chicken meat, imported by the company from Vinidsky PtitsiFabriks, was suspended due to the discovery of listeriosis.

As for the 50 tons of frozen Brazilian chicken mentioned above, the SRC says it was re-exported from Armenia in March of this year.

The destruction order planned to be issued on May 23 will be one of the few times that tainted meat will be destroyed. We make this statement based on Hetq’s study of the Control Chamber’s 2017 Annual Report showing that bacteria tainted meat was allowed into Armenia and was either reprocessed or declared safe, ending up on market shelves.

There were several cases in 2017 and 2016, when tons of imported frozen chicken were first sent to the Standard Dialog laboratory for testing. The samples came back positive for salmonella and, according to the SFSS decision, the poultry had to be destroyed or disposed of.

A few days later, however, the same meat was sent to SFSS’s subordinate Republican Veterinary-Sanitary and Phytosanitary Laboratory Services Center (RVSPCLS) SNCO, and was declared safe for consumption, and the importing company got the requested certificate to import the meat.

It should be noted that RVSPCLS SNCO is not a reference laboratory, and the results of its testing cannot be considered final.

The SFSS has committed other violations. In 2017, it allowed 25 tons of beef containing Escherichia coli bacteria to be used in making canned meat-veggie preserves, although it should have been destroyed within ten days.