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Russia blocks Chobani yogurt from Winter Olympics, straining relations

  • chobani.jpg

    A recent photo of Chobani employees at their plant in Twin Falls, ID, celebrating completion and shipping out Greek Yogurt for Team USA athletes in Sochi Russia. (Courtesy of Chobani)

  • chobani_ap.jpg

    Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on Russian authorities to allow a shipment of Chobani into Sochi for the Winter Olympics. (AP)

Russia is already not playing fair before the Winter Olympics have even started by seeking an advantage in denying Team USA its Chobani yogurt.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York -- where the yogurt is made -- is calling on the Russian government to allow Chobani Greek yogurt to be delivered to Sochi for U.S. Olympic athletes and NBC Studios employees.

Schumer said Tuesday that a shipment of Chobani yogurt is being held up at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey because of "unattainable" Russian customs certifications. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has requested that Russia approve a USDA safety certificate for the yogurt, but Schumer said Russia still won't allow the shipment.

“Unfortunately, this protein-packed, New York-made food has met a serious roadblock in the Russian government, thanks to an unreasonable customs certificate, and they will not allow the yogurt into the country,” Schumer said in a released statement. “Not only is this nutritious food only intended for U.S. citizens, but our own food safety experts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are willing to back the food’s contents, so there is no acceptable hold up in getting this food to our athletes and ensuring that Chobani does not miss out on a critical investment.”

“Chobani yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious and the Russian authorities should get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the US Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes,” said Schumer.

Chobani, based in upstate New York, is an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team. Schumer said the yogurt will be eaten only by U.S. citizens in Sochi.

In a statement provided to FoxNews.com, the company supported Schumer’s efforts, saying it is waiting for the final go-ahead to ship the cups of yogurt to Sochi.

“At a time when the focus should be on our athletes, this seems to be a bureaucratic issue and we appreciate the support and efforts to do right by our athletes,” reads the statement.

Schumer also sent a letter to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak urging his government to make an exception.

“I understand the need for high food safety standards for dairy products. However, the U.S. government has confirmed that sanitary standards have been met to ensure that this yogurt will be safe for consumption by American citizens attending and participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics. As the world looks forward to a successful 2014 Winter Olympics, I urge your country’s immediate approval of the entry of this shipment of Chobani Greek yogurt,” reads a passage from the letter.

A call to the Russian ambassador's press office wasn't immediately returned.

Chobani had a bit of trouble stateside in September when it was forced to recall products after customers complained that the yogurt tasted runny and fizzy and some reported illnesses.

The private company said at the time the problem had affected less than 5 percent of its production and that 95 percent of the tainted cups had been identified right away. The mold was limited to yogurt cups produced at Chobani's Idaho plant. The company also has a plant in New York and one in Australia.

Chobani is the top-selling U.S. Greek-style yogurt in the U.S. market.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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