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Russia Slaps French Chain Auchan with Food Inspections

FILE - A customer picks fish fillet as she visits the fish department of a hypermarket of French grocery retailer Auchan in Moscow, January 15, 2015.

Russian officials are conducting "systematic" inspections at the French supermarket chain Auchan following concerns about poor quality meat, the country's chief public health official said Wednesday.

The inspections have taken place in all of Auchan's Moscow stores since mid-June, said Anna Popova, head of the state consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor.

Rospotrebnadzor said on Wednesday that an Auchan supermarket in Moscow's Kuntsevo district had committed violations similar to those of four other Auchan stores checked earlier -- non-compliance with sanitary treatment and equipment disinfection requirements in its uncooked product shop, Interfax reported.

Another Russian government agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, had said that it would file charges to force Auchan to stop making uncooked meat products.

Rosselkhoznadzor has also alleged that Auchan's pork products contain DNA from cows, chickens and horses. The company was also accused of prolonging expiration dates on meat products.

The French Auchan hypermarket network ranks third by revenue among food retailers in Russia.

The inspections come at a time of increased tension between France and Russia over European Union sanctions imposed in response to the standoff in Ukraine and France's decision to cancel a deal to sell warships to Russia.

Meanwhile, the Russian government is moving ahead with the mass destruction of Western food imports banned under retaliatory moves imposed by the Kremlin on those countries participating in the EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

Over the past few days, state media have broadcast images of bulldozers running over rounds of cheese, workers incinerating boxes of frozen bacon, and assurances from officials that the action is necessary for public safety.

The food destruction program comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order to destroy all Western foodstuffs in Russia that have entered the country despite existing sanctions.

The Kremlin ordered officials to film the food's destruction in a bid to combat potential corruption.

Government officials say 350 tons of banned foods have been confiscated and destroyed since the program went into effect August 6, and there are few signs the campaign is abating.

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