U.S., Russia argue over shipping yogurt to Sochi for U.S. Olympians

Feb. 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A shipment of Chobani remained in storage as the United States and Russia argue whether to allow the yogurt to be shipped to U.S. Olympians at the Sochi games.

Russian officials said they haven't received the necessary paperwork seeking an exemption to its rules that bar the importation of yogurt -- American or otherwise, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The shipment includes 5,000 single-serve containers of Greek yogurt in strawberry, blueberry and peach flavors, as well as containers of plain yogurt that can be used in smoothies by U.S. athletes.

"The Russian Authorities should get past 'nyet,'" Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement this week, "and let this prime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes."

The U.S. government is involved in negotiations with Russia and Russia's two partners in the Eurasian Customs Union -- Belarus and Kazakhstan -- about the public-health standards American dairy products must meet, the Post said. So far, there has been no resolution.

The yogurt is in a climate-controlled warehouse in Newark, N.J., while awaiting a decision on the exemption, the Post said.

Schumer also asked Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, for help.

"I understand the need for high food safety standards for dairy products," Schumer said in a letter to Kislyak earlier this week. "However, the U.S. government has confirmed that sanitary standards have been met to ensure that this yogurt will be safe for consumption by American citizens attending and participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics."

In a statement Thursday, the Russian Embassy in Washington blamed U.S. officials for the yogurt set-to. It said the U.S. Agriculture Department hadn't supplied the necessary paperwork to make an exception.

Because the Olympic Games are underway, Schumer said, there was "simply no time" to waste to get the yogurt to U.S. athletes, stressing that only Americans would be consuming the dairy product.

If granted the exemption, Chobani said it would fly its product to Sochi.

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