17 Sep 2018

Foodstuffs and Woolworths NZ halt all Australian strawberries distribution

5:06 pm on 17 September 2018

Woolworths NZ has joined Foodstuffs in halting the distribution of Australian strawberries after sewing needles were found inside the fruit sold in supermarkets across the Tasman.

Fresh strawberry at market in plastic boxes.

Fresh strawberry at market in plastic boxes. Photo: 123rf.com

Sewing needles have been found in punnets of strawberries purchased in five states or territories - the latest in Tasmania.

Australian police believe a disgruntled farm worker is to blame for the cases in Queensland, but said copycats may be responsible in other states.

Foodstuffs said it was confident there was no product in its stores that have been affected by the Australian action.

But the company said for added reassurance it elected to halt distribution of Australian strawberries. The decision was made yesterday.

Foodstuff's main two supermarket chains are Pak'n'Save and New World.

Woolworths New Zealand, the parent company of Countdown, SuperValue, Woolworths and Fresh Choice, later said it had done the same thing.

As with Foodstuffs, it said none of its strawberries had been affected, but it had taken the extra measure just to be sure.

There have now been nine confirmed cases of strawberries found with needles in them and one consumer has been hospitalised, the ABC reported.

The latest incidents reported were the discovery of needles in three strawberries in a single punnet.

Six brands of strawberries are now believed to be affected by needle and pin contamination, according to New South Wales police.

A police statement released last week said contamination could now affect Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis brands, along with Berry Obsession and Berry Licious, the two brands named earlier this week.

The NSW police announcement came after Queensland Health confirmed Donnybrook strawberries, supplied to supermarkets nationwide from its farms north of Brisbane, had been found contaminated with sewing needles.

Strawberry Growers New Zealand chairman Anthony Rakich said he had never heard of anything like it.

"We all have our own guidelines and we follow those once the fruit's been packed," he said.

"They must do the same in Australia, I presume they do the same in Australia. I guess if someone's determined to do it, I'm not sure how. It depends if again where it's been done. Has it been done in the field or has it been done in the store? It's scary."

- RNZ with additional reporting by ABC