Fonterra has rubbished reports that four Sri Lanka-based executives have been summoned to face contempt of court charges over the company's alleged failure to comply with a ban on the sale and advertising of its milk products in the country.
Reuters reported yesterday that a Sri Lankan District Court had ordered Fonterra Brands Lanka and four of its top officials to appear before it to face contempt of court charges.
According to Reuters, the charges relate to alleged breaches of an earlier ruling that temporarily prohibited the sale and advertising of all Fonterra milk products in Sri Lanka.
New Zealand-based Fonterra has slammed the reports, and refuted claims that it is not adhering with the court order.
“Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka has not been held in contempt of court,” a Fonterra spokesperson told DairyReporter.com. “Fonterra has been told that an application has been made to the court alleging Fonterra has not complied with an enjoining order.”
“Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka refutes this and is complying with all aspects of the enjoining order,” the spokesperson added.
Sales and advertising ban
Gampaha District Court issued the national two-week ban on the sale and advertising of all Fonterra milk products last week, following a complaint by the National Health Services Trade Union that the company’s marketing was misleading.
Lawyers representing the trade union have claimed that despite the ban Fonterra has continued to distribute its products to retailers, Reuters reported yesterday.
The company also handed out leaflets to consumer stating that its products were still fit for human consumption, the lawyers claimed.
The court order was issued within days of news that Fonterra had been ordered by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health to recall two batches – totalling 39 tonnes – of its Anchor brand milk powder, after tests conducted by the country’s Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) detected levels of dicyandiamide (DCD) in the batches.
While it complied with the Ministry of Health request, Fonterra also challenged the accuracy of the testing methods employed by ITI to test for DCD.
Concerns about DCD first emerged in January 2013, when it was revealed that low levels of the substance had been discovered in samples Fonterra milk powder.
DCD, which is a chemical applied to pasture by farmers to prevent nitrate seeping into rivers and lakes, has never been considered to be a food safety risk, but there is no international standard for it in food.