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Sri Lankan court bars Fonterra milk products for two weeks

The Fonterra logo is seen near the Fonterra Te Rapa plant near Hamilton August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Nigel Marple
The Fonterra logo is seen near the Fonterra Te Rapa plant near Hamilton August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Nigel Marple

By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) - A Sri Lankan court on Friday banned the sale and advertising of all Fonterra milk products for two weeks, officials said, following a complaint by a health sector trade union that the company's marketing was misleading.

The National Health Services Union said it sought the court ban because Fonterra products suspected of being contaminated with the toxic agricultural chemical dicyandiamide (DCD) were still on the market despite an order from the health ministry to recall them.

The Sri Lankan case follows a major global food scare involving New Zealand's Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, which said on August 3 some of its products could contain a bacteria that can cause botulism.

Potentially tainted products have been taken off shelves from China to Saudi Arabia while other countries took measures to restrict imports.

An official from Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka declined to comment on the court order, saying it had not yet been received.

The health ministry has said tests by Sri Lanka's Industrial Technology Institute found DCD in some Fonterra milk powders and it had ordered their recall.

Fonterra disputed the accuracy of the testing but on Thursday told Reuters it had recalled two batches of Anchor-branded product in accordance with the ministry directive.

Friday's court order came a day after the government said it had appointed a ministerial committee to investigate DCD and botulism contamination in Fonterra products.

Saman Rathnapriya of the National Health Services Union urged police to enforce the court order across Sri Lanka.

"When Fonterra's mother company accepts that its products were contaminated, when New Zealand's government also accepts it and prepares to send their minister to China to apologize... why are Fonterra's local officials misleading the general public by way of advertising and distributing leaflets?" he said.

Upul Jayasuriya, who appeared in court on behalf of the union, told Reuters the court had barred Fonterra from "(wholesaling), selling and distributing and/or selling for agents...all brands of Fonterra products for a period of two weeks."

The court also barred the advertising of Fonterra's milk products, Jayasuriya said.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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