13 Feb 2024

More rats found, Countdown Dunedin South to remain closed

4:45 pm on 13 February 2024

By Hamish MacLean of Otago Daily Times

Countdown Dunedin South

Photo: ODT / Stephen Jaquiery

After two more rats were caught in the store today, Countdown Dunedin South has confirmed it will not reopen its store until at least Thursday.

By then it will have been six days straight that the store will have been closed.

In total, 23 rats have been caught at the store since 5 February.

Woolworths New Zealand director of stores Jason Stockill said Tuesday the Countdown at 323 Andersons Bay Rd, South Dunedin, would remain closed until 48 hours had passed without a rat caught inside.

The news of the latest captures at the South Dunedin supermarket comes on the same day the company was told the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) would launch an independent review of the company's pest-management nationwide.

"We would like to thank our customers and community for their understanding as we continue to address the rodent issue at Countdown Dunedin South, Stockill said.

"We can confirm there were two rodent captures in Countdown Dunedin South in the last 24 hours.

"We believe that all entry or exit sites have been sealed over the weekend.

"Having a safe and hygienic store is incredibly important to us and we have agreed with New Zealand Food Safety (a division of MPI) that we will keep the store closed until there has been a 48-hour period with no captures in the store.

"We would like to apologise for any distress and inconvenience this issue is causing our community.

"We continue to work closely with New Zealand Food Safety and Rentokil, and will provide regular updates as needed.

"We will also fully cooperate with MPI's independent review of our pest-management process nationwide by AssureQuality," Mr Stockill said.

MPI to investigate Woolworths pest management

The Ministry of Primary Industries is launching an independent review into pest management at Woolworths supermarkets after rodent issues were identified at a second Countdown.

The issue of pest management at Woolworths comes as Countdown Dunedin South remains closed today - for the fourth day straight - after 21 rats had been caught in the store over the past week.

Woolworths hit the headlines again this week after video emerged showing a mouse on top of a salad at Christchurch's Eastgate Countdown and now the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) says it is concerned about how it responded to that incident.

New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said the government body, which sits under MPI, said today it advised Woolworths it would initiate an independent review of its pest-management processes across its New Zealand operation.

The review would be carried out by AsureQuality and would provide assurance regarding its pest-control systems.

We sent a food safety compliance officer to Countdown Eastgate yesterday, after finding out about the mouse video from Woolworths on Sunday.

"Our investigations into the Christchurch incident are continuing, however, it appears proper procedures were not followed immediately after the mouse was spotted.

"We would expect the food in the deli counter to have been disposed of immediately."

Arbuckle said people were right to expect good levels of pest management and hygiene in supermarkets.

"We have asked Woolworths for a report on the Countdown Eastgate incident and on any other recent rodent issues.

"We reserve the right to take further action, like we have in Dunedin where we recommended that the Countdown Dunedin South be shut and remain closed until NZFS and Woolworths are satisfied that there is evidence that the new pest-control measures have worked."

It would continue to monitor how Woolworths managed the issue at both stores.

Woolworths New Zealand director of stores Jason Stockill yesterday said Countdown Dunedin South would remain closed today - for the fourth day straight - after 21 rats had been caught in the store over the past week.

The supermarket at 323 Andersons Bay Rd closed at the weekend after four rats were caught at the store in just a few days.

Then, 13 rats were caught in the store when the store was closed for pest control on Saturday and Sunday, Stockill said yesterday morning.

Four more rats were caught in the store yesterday, he said.

Stockill confirmed the mouse video incident occurred at the Eastgate store in Christchurch where a live mouse was discovered in the salad section of the deli on the evening of Wednesday, 7 February.

"The incident was reported and Rentokil came to the site and identified some entry points which have now been sealed," Stockill said.

He said a dead mouse was found the next day "indicating its pest control programme is working and there have been no sightings since.

"We would like to apologise to our customers for this incident and reassure them that food safety remains a focus for us," he said.

Stockill said while rodent control is an ongoing focus for the food industry his team believes this was an isolated incident.

- This story was first published by theOtago Daily Times.

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