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Nine tonnes of salmon caviar seized by police

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24 November 2014


Russia’s annual caviar consumption is estimated at about 15,000 tonnes. Picture: Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs

Police in Siberia have destroyed nearly nine tonnes of poor quality caviar as part of an operation to clamp down on illegal batches of the luxury food.

The massive haul would have had an estimated value of about 20million roubles ($450,000) if sold as legitimate, but it was found to be almost eight tonnes of salt and just one tonne of raw salmon caviar.

It was seized from an illegal processing facility in Elizovo, with the plant’s owner claiming he was using it to turn it into livestock feed and fertiliser. The caviar was also found to contain the banned preservative methenamine, which can cause skin allergies and is not suitable for use in food.

A report by police in Kamchatka said: 'In total 7,822kg of salt and more than a tonne of raw caviar were found in the illegal processing facility, housed in a building belonging to an unemployed citizen born in 1976. The man explained that he was allegedly recycling the caviar exclusively for livestock feed and fertiliser'.

People in Russia have developed a taste for salmon caviar – known as red caviar – in recent years amid a clampdown on harvesting the prized 'black gold' caviar from sturgeon fish. Not as expensive as sturgeon caviar, prices still tend to rise during the New Year period, a time many people associate with an open sandwich topped with butter and the red eggs. As much as 90 per cent of all red caviar comes from fisheries in the Far East of the country, the trade commanding prices of about $50 per kilo.

Russia’s annual caviar consumption is estimated at about 15,000 tonnes and the authorities have taken a number of steps to protect its valuable trade.

During the fishing season in the Kamchatka peninsula this year, a total of 60 tonnes of illegal fish and 25 tonnes of salmon caviar have been seized from poachers.

Police said the unnamed man arrested in Elizovo did not have the proper authorisation or documents to run his plant, and was fined 500 roubles ($11).

He was found to have contravened Article 10.8 of the Administrative Code for a 'violation of animal health rules, or the rules of harvesting, processing, storing or disposal of animal products'. The arrest came in August but has only now been made public by the authorities.

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