Getting several thousand containers of fresh Chobani yogurt to U.S. Olympic athletes in Sochi is proving more difficult than anyone could have imagined a week ago.
And it has nothing to do with the tight seal of security around the Russian village 5,200 miles east of the Chenanago County town of Columbus, where the yogurt for the Olympians was produced.
Even with the Obama administration and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pressing the Russian government to admit the yogurt to pass through its customs, the country hosting the Winter Olympics was still saying “Nyet” to those requests Thursday night.
The 5,000 containers of various Chobani blends remained in limbo, stacked inside a refrigerated facility outside Newark International Airport, from where they would be shipped to Sochi should the diplomatic overtures being made to Russian envoys in Washington prove fruitful.
“This is very, very disappointing to a lot of the people who work at Chobani,” said Betsey Baio, who serves food to many of the yogurt factory workers at her New Berlin restaurant, New York Pizza. “It’s really sad and frustrating they are holding this up for this long. To us, it just seems like Russia must be out to ban American products.”
Schumer said even though Chobani has completed all necessary paperwork, the Russian government refuses to accept a certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the product meets food safety standards.
Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for Schumer, said the Russian government was raising questions about the safety of American dairy products that made it “impossible” to declare that certain cattle diseases do not exist in this country.
“They are pointing to specific diseases in cows that do exist,” even though they have not been documented in the cows producing the milk accepted by Chobani, Kelly said.