Published: Tue, September 25, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Needle found in Auckland strawberry punnet

Needle found in Auckland strawberry punnet

New Zealand's Countdown supermarket chain said it had taken a brand of Australian strawberries off the shelves after the needles were found in produce sold at one of its branches.

Sewing needles were initially found in punnets of the fruit in Queensland last week, but the problem has since spread.

Countdown noted the brand had not been withdrawn from sale in Australia, where there had been no similar reports.

West Auckland grower Phil Greig says the Australian needle scandal's been a big concern for producers here, but is hoping it won't change people's buying habits this summer.

"If people are genuinely anxious, our advice is that they should cut the strawberries before eating, to provide absolute confidence".

"Like all food imports, strawberries from Australia are supported by Government-to-Government assurances".

It also said it was in contact with both Australian and New Zealand authorities investigating the matter.

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Countdown, which owns 181 supermarkets across New Zealand, has urged shoppers to cut up any strawberries already purchased.

It is not known either whether the affected punnet was discovered by a member of the public or a staffer.

Discussing the report on the radio this morning, Kiwi MP Damien O'Connor said there were fears the incident may have been caused by a copycat saboteur.

The spokeswoman told the Herald that apart from this discovery, no other strawberries with needles had been reported across the Countdown store network in New Zealand.

Countdown said on Sunday that remaining stock of the brand was pulled off its shelves.

According to, Stuart Smith, the acting assistant commissioner of the New South Wales police force, said: "In the last two days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he'll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system".

More than 100 reports of tampered fruit are being investigated by police across Australia, many of which are thought to be fake or copycat cases, while the federal government has ramped up penalties for so-called "food terrorists".

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