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Fonterra denies DCD claims after Sri Lankan court imposes temporary ban on products

Monday 19th August 2013

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Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world's biggest dairy exporter, faces a 14 day temporary ban on selling products in Sri Lanka, and denies claims its products still contain traces of a nitrate inhibitor that sparked a food scare earlier this year.

Three workers representing Sri Lanka's National Health Services Union have won a temporary injunction to stop the Auckland-based company from selling its products in Sri Lanka, though that doesn't affect food already on shelves, Fonterra said in a statement. The Sri Lankan government isn't involved in the action, it said.

"Our independent testing has found no traces of DCD in any Fonterra branded products in Sri Lanka and no affected whey protein concentrate or products containing it have been sent to the country," said Johan Priem, Fonterra managing director Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. "We are confident in the quality and safety of our products in Sri Lanka and we are currently working through our legal options there."

The order was sought amid suspicions the dairy products contain traces of dicyandiamide, the nitrate inhibitor found in some of Fonterra's milk powder last year which led to the voluntary withdrawal of fertilisers using DCD.

The court action comes amid a wider scare about the quality of Fonterra's goods after it discovered bacteria that can cause botulism in three batches of whey protein. The find led to limited import bans being imposed on those affected products in China, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The contamination was confined to 38 metric tonnes of whey protein concentrate (WPC80) manufactured at Fonterra's Hautapu plant near Cambridge and first picked up at a plant in Australia. It was used in the manufacture of infant formula, juice and dairy beverages, yoghurt, body building powder, and animal stock food.

The threat to New Zealand's reputation with Chinese consumers has put the government into over-drive to head off the risk, and it is fast-tracking legislation to allow a speedy inquiry so Prime Minister John Key can front up in China to allay those concerns.

The latest scare led to the resignation of NZ Milk Products managing director Gary Romano last week, and Fonterra has also put to unnamed executives on leave while it investigates the cause of the contamination.

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