Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2015

Schumer to Russians: Let Olympians Have Their Chobani (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:45 p.m. | Is Vladimir Putin depriving U.S. Olympians of their official Greek yogurt? Sen. Charles E. Schumer seems to think so.

On Tuesday, the New York Democrat called on Russia to allow a shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt intended for consumption by U.S. athletes into the country, saying it was caught in a customs disagreement and being held at a facility near Newark Liberty International Airport.

“Unfortunately, this protein-packed, New York-made food has met a serious roadblock in the Russian Government, thanks to an unreasonable customs certificate, and they will not allow the yogurt into the country,” Schumer said in a statement. “Not only is this nutritious food only intended for U.S. citizens, but our own food safety experts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is willing to back the food’s contents, so there is no acceptable holdup in getting this food to our athletes and ensuring that Chobani does not miss out on a critical investment.”

Schumer sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee and the Russian ambassador to the United States seeking a remedy for the customs issue.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported on the Chobani tie-up Tuesday. Chobani is headquartered in upstate New York, hence Schumer’s interest in the Greek yogurt.

“I understand the need for high food safety standards for dairy products. 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. As the world looks forward to a successful 2014 Winter Olympics, I urge your country’s immediate approval of the entry of this shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt,” Schumer said in his letter.

The full text of the letter to the ambassador appears below:

Dear Ambassador Sergey Kislyak:

I write today to bring to your attention an urgent issue that has resulted in the shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games being withheld entry to the Russian Federation. As the United States and its Olympic athletes prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games which commence later this week, the Russian Federation should accept the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s AMS sanitary certificate for a one-time non-commercial shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt to U.S. athletes.

As you know, the USDA has sent a letter to the Russian Federation’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) requesting permission for Chobani to be able to supply U.S. athletes during the games. The USDA is seeking the approval of an AMS sanitary certificate for export to the Russian Federation, which would be only for a one-time shipment of Greek yogurt and solely for the consumption of U.S. citizens during the 2014 Olympic Games.

I understand the need for high food safety standards for dairy products. 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. As the world looks forward to a successful 2014 Winter Olympics, I urge your country’s immediate approval of the entry of this shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

Update 12:45 p.m.

Chobani has issued a statement thanking Schumer for his efforts, saying in part:

We appreciate Senator Charles Schumer’s support of Team USA by helping us complete the delivery of Chobani Greek Yogurt to Sochi to naturally power our athletes all the way to the finish line — something we’ve had in the works for quite some time. Right now, 5,000 fresh single-serve cups of blueberry, strawberry and peach Chobani, and multi-serve containers of plain Chobani yogurt for smoothies, are being stored in a temperature-controlled facility, waiting for the final go-ahead from Russian authorities to be immediately transported. This is a time when the focus should be on our athletes, so we’re just trying to do right by them in getting food they enjoy from home.

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