* Court had banned sale of some Fonterra products
* Customs still withhold Fonterra products with whey protein
By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO, Aug 19 Sri Lanka's health ministry has
decided to release a batch of milk powder made by companies
including New Zealand's Fonterra after tests for
suspected dicyandiamide (DCD) contamination came back negative,
officials said on Monday.
Sri Lankan customs had withheld several batches of Fonterra
products from sale after the island nation's Industrial
Technological Institute (ITI) said some of its milk powder
brands were found to contain DCD, a toxic agricultural chemical.
Fonterra has disputed the accuracy of the testing.
The case follows a global food scare involving Fonterra, the
world's biggest dairy products exporter, which said on Aug. 3
that some of its products could contain a bacteria that can
Sri Lankan customs already withheld some Fonterra products
after that warning.
Health Ministry spokesman Dharma Wanninayake said fresh ITI
tests had confirmed there was no DCD found in seven samples of
milk powders that were sent to them from customs a few days ago.
Wanninayake said the government's Director General of Health
Services had concluded there would be no negative consequences
in releasing the batches to the market.
He said Fonterra products containing whey proteins would
still be withheld by the customs until proper tests prove they
are not contaminated with botulism-causing bacteria.
A local Fonterra official said the company was yet to be
officially informed of the decision. Customs officials have said
informally that they expect the withheld stocks to be released
on Wednesday as Tuesday is a public holiday.
The Health Ministry decision comes after a Sri Lankan court
banned the sale and advertising of all Fonterra milk products
for two weeks on Friday following a complaint by a health sector
trade union that the company's marketing was misleading.
Leon Clement, managing director of Fonterra Brands Sri
Lanka, said last week that none of the three batches of whey
protein concentrate (WPC80) suspected in the case of possible
botulism had entered Sri Lanka.
"Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka does not use WPC80 in any of the
formulations of our branded products and Fonterra does not sell
WPC80 to customers in Sri Lanka," Clement wrote on Thursday in
an email to Reuters before the court issued its ban.
(writing by Shihar Aneez; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)