It’s one of the biggest food fights in history, and a self storage unit is currently acting as the armory, as a paperwork dispute between U.S. and Russian officials has led to Russia blocking the delivery of thousands of containers of Chobani brand Greek yogurt intended for members of the U.S. Olympic Team. Chobani is an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team.
What began as a seemingly minor issue has now left the New York-based yogurt company frustrated. “I’d like to think yogurt has diplomatic immunity,” Peter McGuinness, the chief marketing and brand officer for Chobani, told the New York Times.
For now the 5,000 cups of yogurt intended for America’s Olympic athletes are sitting in a temperature-controlled storage unit near the Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport, with representatives of Chobani, the U.S. Olympic Committee and now the United States Government hoping they will soon be Sochi-bound.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has sent a letter to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, in an attempt to break the stalemate.
“With the Sochi Olympic Games starting at the end of this week, there is simply no time to waste in getting our Olympic athletes a nutritious and delicious food,” Schumer’s letter reads. “Chobani Yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious and the Russian authorities should get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes.”
At the heart of the issue is Russian insistence the yogurt fulfill their food safety certification before being allowed into the country. At the moment Russian officials have not accepted Chobani’s certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that their product meets food safety standards. The USDA is now attempting to gain a waiver for Chobani to make a one-time, non-commercial delivery of their yogurt with the agreement it will only be distributed to American citizens.
Hopefully this situation will be resolved soon and Chobani can get its yogurt to Sochi and America’s Olympic athletes, but in the meantime they are sitting safe and sound in refrigerated storage.