Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Thursday, 11 June 2009 09:47 UK

Venezuela bans sale of Coke Zero

Coke zero
Coke Zero has been successful elsewhere in the world since its launch

Venezuela has banned the sale of the calorie-free Coke Zero, calling it harmful to people's well-being.

"The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans," said Health Minister Jesus Mantilla.

Mr Mantilla did not say what the specific problem with Coke Zero was.

Coca-Cola said it would stop production of the drink in the country, but also added that Coke Zero contained no harmful products.

Anti-US motivations?

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is a vocal critic of the US, and is in the process of nationalising much of the economy.

He has criticised American "imperialism" repeatedly, and often castigates critics of his rule on his TV show Alo Presidente.

The government this year has seized a rice mill and pasta factory belonging to US food giant Cargill and has threatened action against pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

Venezuela, the world's ninth largest oil producer, has nationalised much of its oil and gas sector since Mr Chavez came to power, and recently took over its third largest bank, Banco de Venezuela.

In February he won a referendum that allowed him to keep running for new terms in office.

Coke Zero was launched in Venezuela in April. It launched the beverage in Europe in 2007.

In 2005, Venezuela's tax authorities ordered a 48-hour closure of Coca Cola's bottling plants for allegedly not following tax rules.

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