[caption id="attachment_16977" align="alignright" width="264" caption="Clover Stornetta Farms' Facebook page had nearly 2,000 fans in mid-December. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

UPDATE, Dec. 22, 2009: Facebook revised its promotions policy to remove the ban on mentioning dairy but still prohibits the offering of dairy products as prizes.

NORTH BAY -- Clover Stornetta Farms and Straus Family Creamery, which have nearly 2,000 and 1,000 Facebook page fans, respectively, were surprised to hear early last week of a recent change in the giant Internet social network's promotions policy banning dairy products.

"It's an important tool for us," Straus spokeswoman Brie Johnson said of Facebook.

Facebook now says it is reversing the dairy ban.

The Palo Alto-based Web site boasts more than 350 million users and has become an increasingly important marketing tool for businesses as more computer users start and end their days on such social networking sites.

Facebook changed its rules about how users can publicize or administer sweepstakes, contests, competitions or similar offerings. The promotions guidelines, listed as being updated Nov. 4, banned mention of promotions for gambling, tobacco, guns, prescription drugs, gasoline -- and dairy.

After the dairy ban was criticized, the company released a statement that dairy initially was included in the list because of "individual state laws that impose penalties for distributing dairy at a discounted rate," wrote Andrew Noyes, public policy communications manager. Gasoline was listed for a similar reason.

Facebook now says it will revise the dairy ban.

"We’re all big fans of strong bones at Facebook, and we will soon revise our promotions guidelines to lift the complete ban on dairy and simply prohibit giving dairy away as a prize," he wrote.

The guidelines would soon be revised to shift from a complete ban on dairy to a prohibition of dairy products as prizes, according to Mr. Noyes. He added that promotions on Facebook can only be administered, such as collecting contact information for entrants or informing them of winning, through a tiny piece of software created by a third party and installed on a company's page.