It is a sad day for world food security. Russia’s national food-taster, the ever-bustling Gennadiy Onishchenko, is stepping down as head of the country's federal food-safety inspectorate, Rospotrebnadzor.
During his vibrant, low-carb tenure, Onishchenko ushered in an era of food-fights with Russia’s nettlesome neighbors. He put the Russians on a Georgian and Moldovan wine-free diet, outlawed Belorusian and Lithuanian dairy products, deported Ukrainian confectionary items, including its famous Kyiv cake, and dished out many other controversial bans.
“I have many enemies because of the nature of my job,” Onishchenko used to say.
Every time Moscow’s neighbors got too carried away making eyes at the EU or the US, or otherwise annoying the Kremlin, Onishchenko would throw himself over Russia to protect it from potential alimentary hazards.
One of his major battles was the war on Georgian wine and mineral water – a key cause and cure, respectively, of many a post-Soviet hangover.
The quality of Georgian beverages apparently improved, at least to Onishechenko’s taste, after President Mikheil Saakashvili’s Russia-bashing government lost legislative control over Georgia in October 2012. Onishchenko has been allowing Georgian drinks back into Russia sip by sip since.
Nonetheless, he is still looking askance at that US-sponsored biological research lab in Georgia, for, he claims, it could be a launching ground for an American gastronomical attack on Russia.
International food politics aside, he is also know for homegrown food and health strategies. He famously advised Russian men against eating donuts in front of a TV set and, more generally, not to stay indoors during holidays for it makes them “ugly.”
“The domestic man is a dying breed,” opined Onishchenko, who suggested reducing the New Year’s holidays so that Russians spend less time eating and drinking.
A teetotaler and tea-enthusiast, Onishchenko claimed he has not been sick for 20 years.
Recently, the stern-faced Onishchenko flashed a rare smile when he ran down Moscow’s streets carrying an Olympic torch. But this turned out to be a farewell smile.
He may not be missed by the region’s food producers, but regional media will miss a major newsmaker.