Community split over destruction of banned food imports, poll shows

© Maksim Bogodvid
Public opinion research on the recent order to destroy the seized contraband foods shows the proportion of Russian citizens who support and oppose it are approximately equal, with a slight shift in favor of those who support the tougher customs rules.

The results of the poll released by the state-run agency VTSIOM on Wednesday show that 46 percent of the Russian public approve of utilizing the seized food contraband. Some 44 percent said they had negative attitude towards this idea, while 10 percent said they had no precise opinion on the subject.

When the pollsters asked the respondents to suggest what the authorities should do with the confiscated foodstuffs, 22 percent said that physical destruction was the only possible scenario. Twenty-five percent said that the confiscated foods should be sent to the needy and 14 percent suggested sending it back to the country of origin – as Russia had done before the new rules were introduced in early August.

READ MORE: Communists draft bill allowing handouts of seized banned food to needy

According to the same research, 79 percent of Russians agreed that the confiscated foodstuffs must be destroyed if experts rule them potentially hazardous for health. Forty-four percent said that batches of food with counterfeit documents or without any papers at all must be disposed of and 33 percent said that this must happen to any products imported in violation of the Russian laws.

Only 10 percent of respondents expressed the opinion that foodstuffs seized by customs cannot be destroyed under any circumstances.

When the pollsters also asked Russians what in their opinion was the main reason behind the much-discussed decision, the opinions varied greatly. Sixteen percent said the authorities wanted to protect the people from low quality smuggled foods. A further 15 percent see the order as a reciprocal measure against the new round of anti-Russian sanctions in the West, while 10 percent answered that this was a prevention measure seeking to bring down the number of attempted smugglings. Seven percent said that this was just a way of executing the law.

Some 49 percent of Russians said they expected the number of attempted smuggling of sanctioned foods to go down after the order on its destruction, 38 percent said that they expected it to remain on the same level and 3 percent answered that in their opinion smugglers would increase the amount of contraband after facing new rules.

Earlier this month Russia introduced the obligatory destruction of all food products imported on its territory in violation of the food embargo. According to Russian state watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, 500 tons of seized contraband foodstuffs were destroyed in in just one week after the new procedure’s implementation. At the same time, the head of the agency told reporters that the number of attempts to smuggle embargoed products into the country had fallen to a 10th of the usual figure after the decree on their destruction was signed by President Putin, but before it came into force.

READ MORE: Customs service asks government to make contraband of banned foods criminal offense

Last week the Federal Customs Service proposed to make the rules even tougher by criminalizing illegal food imports from sanctioned countries. If approved, the motion would put embargoed foods on the same list with weapons of mass destruction and endangered animals.

The bill ordering this has been posted online for public discussion and if passed it would come into force in March 2016.