Russian officials have steamrolled tonnes of cheese, fruit and vegetables, defying public outrage to begin a controversial drive to destroy Western food smuggled into the country. A spokeswoman for the food safety agency Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement released by the agriculture ministry on Thursday that the flattened cheese – amounting to almost nine tonnes – would be buried underground. More than 350 tonnes of food have been destroyed in just two days.
“It is a worldwide practice that if you break the law, if it is smuggled goods, they have to be destroyed”
Alexander Tkachev, Agriculture Minister
“From today, agricultural produce, raw products and foods, which come from a country that has decided to impose economic sanctions on Russian legal entities or individuals … and which are banned from import into Russia, are due to be destroyed,” Rosselkhoznadzor said. President Vladimir Putin last week signed a decree ordering the trashing of all food – from gourmet cheeses to fruit and vegetables – that breaches a year-old embargo on Western imports imposed in retaliation for sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. Russian television showed officials dumping truckloads of round bright orange cheeses on a patch of wasteland and then driving over them with a steamroller in the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine. The cheeses arrived from Ukraine in unmarked boxes, but were most likely produced in the European Union, a reporter at the scene said. Moscow last year banned a slew of food products from the West, ranging from delicacies such as Parmesan, pate and Spanish hams and to staples such as apples. Food brought in for private consumption is still permitted. Russia complains that some importers are circumventing the ban by illegally slapping on new labels that claim the food was produced in neighbouring ex-Soviet countries.