Sri Lanka court bans Fonterra milk products

A Sri Lankan court Friday temporarily banned the sale and distribution of all milk products made by the New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, which is under pressure over a global botulism scare.

The Gampaha district court ordered the two-week suspension pending investigations into allegations of contamination, according to court records seen by AFP.

The order was given following public interest litigation by a nurses' trade union which accused Fonterra of selling products that could be contaminated with harmful bacteria and a chemical.

"The company is prohibited from selling or distributing all their products, either directly or through agents, for a period of two weeks," a court official said after a preliminary hearing.

Sri Lanka's Court of Appeal had already imposed a temporary ban on Fonterra advertising.

There was no immediate comment from Fonterra, which last week recalled two batches of milk powder following orders from the Sri Lankan government because of allegations it contained traces of the chemical DCD.

Dicyandiamide, or DCD, is added to pastures to increase agricultural yields.

The recall was unrelated to the global safety recall announced by Fonterra earlier this month after tests turned up a type of bacteria that could cause botulism.

A New Zealand government website says DCD is not toxic and poses no food safety risk but Sri Lanka's health ministry considers it to be a "toxic chemical".

Fonterra has said the Sri Lankan government tests that allegedly found traces of DCD were flawed and the results incorrect.

Friday's court action came a day after public health inspectors checked supermarkets for contaminated products.

New Zealand's government said last weekend products potentially tainted with botulism-causing bacteria included infant formula, sports drinks, protein drinks and other beverages.

Auckland-based Fonterra had insisted that it had not exported any milk or milk product to Sri Lanka which contained the whey protein that was contaminated.

Sri Lanka imported milk and milk products worth $307 million in 2012 with the bulk coming from New Zealand and Australia, the central bank says.