EUROPEAN Union (EU) member states have suffered unevenly from Russia’s ban on EU food exports from last August, according to European Commission data.

While Finnish and Estonian extra-EU food and drink exports fell sharply in August-November 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 (32% and 22% down respectively), other EU food exporters saw only moderate falls in such sales, or even gains. Lithuania and Poland saw their extra-EU food and drink exports fall by less than 10%, despite previous significant exposure to Russian markets. In 2013, 41% of Lithuanian extra-EU food and drink exports went to Russia, worth EUR922 million; while 19% of Polish exports went the same direction, worth EUR840 million.

Overall, extra-EU exports of food and drink from all EU member states rose between August-November 2013 and August-November 2014, up 1.7% to EUR42.4 billion from EUR41.7 billion, despite sales to Russia falling by 36% because of the ban.

*Russia has tightened its EU food restrictions, blocking all non-dairy cheese imports from Poland, previously exempt from its ban. Thus followed Russian consumer agency Rospotrebnadzor finding ‘Wesola Krowka’ (‘Jolly Cow’) imitation cheese broke Russian food rules – sparking a blanket ban.

Other international regulatory food and drink news:

*The European Commission has confirmed it is probing whether exemptions to Denmark’s short-lived ‘fat tax’ generated unfair fiscal advantages for certain meat and dairy companies. It has launched a ‘state aid’ inquiry using EU competition powers. If the Commission concludes that certain exemptions – covering certain meat and dairy products – were unfair, it could demand that exempted companies pay back-taxes.

*The Commission has also released details of its proposals about how Europe might recognise American food and drink sanitary and phytosanitary standards, should the EU and USA agree a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal. Importing regulators would have to recognise the exporting regulators’ controls, “if the exporting party objectively demonstrates to the importing party that its measure achieves the importing party’s appropriate level of protection.”

*The European Committee of Sugar Manufacturers (CEFS) has called for TTIP to exclude sugar and high sugar products, claiming both markets had sufficient sugar supplies. It also called for rules of origin to be strengthened to ensure that Mexican sugar, allowed on the US market through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), does not reach the EU duty-free.

*Concerns have been raised at the European Parliament over the impending abolition of EU milk production quotas on March 31, as dairy prices continue to fall: milk prices fell from 40 Euro cents per kilo in December 2013 to 34 Euro cents in December 2014.

*The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) is lending EUR23 million to Turkey’s ETİ Gıda Sanayi ve Ticaret, to help build a new plant in Romania making biscuits, cakes, crackers and chocolate.

*The European Commission has approved a new novel food for use in the EU – methyl vinyl ether-maleic anhydride copolymer, as chewing gum ingredient, in proportions up to 2% of a finished product.

*The Indian state of Maharashtra has banned selling or consuming beef on its territory, effectively blocking European imports. The ban came into effect on March 5. Hindu groups, who consider cows sacred animals, welcomed the action. Buffalo beef can be sold, with permission from regulators.

*The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has approved the sale of powdered alcohol. Four varieties branded ‘Palcohol’ should be sold this summer. US states will regulate powdered alcohol sales, however, and many have passed or plan bans.

*More than 97% of 81,000 food samples evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contain pesticide residues within legal limits, with just under 55% free of detectable traces.

*The European Commission has rejected three food product health claims proposed by the Specialised Nutrition Europe association. They are that beta-palmitate enrichment helps consumers pass stools; choline helps develop infant and young child brains; and complex carbohydrates control hunger pangs.