Published: Sun, September 23, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Strawberry sabotage: Needles found in New Zealand punnet imported from WA

Strawberry sabotage: Needles found in New Zealand punnet imported from WA

Countdown is warning customers to cut up strawberries before eating them after needles were found in fruit bought in an Auckland supermarket.

Countdown said it had also alerted authorities in Australia.

The supermarket chain has withdrawn the Choice brand strawberries - in which the needles were found - from the shelves at Countdown, Supervalue and FreshChoice outlets.

It added that the brand of strawberries affected by this withdrawal "have not previously had any issues of this nature reported and had not been withdrawn from sale in Australia".

Woolworths Australia, Countdown´s parent company, has withdrawn needles from sale as a "precautionary step" as police hunt for the original culprit amid a spate of copycat episodes.

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

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Police searched the student pilot's auto with a robotic arm to make sure no explosives were inside, Booker said. The vehicle was towed away after it was declared safe. "We're obviously going to review all our security".

In a statement Countdown said it had taken all stock of the "Choice" brand of strawberries off its shelves while it investigates.

Foodstuffs, which operates Four Square, New World and Pak'nSave, said last week that it would halt the distribution of Australian strawberries in New Zealand.

There have been over 100 reports of needles being found in supermarket fruit in Australia.

New Zealand police said the customer who had bought the strawberries had discovered the needles before any were eaten and no one had been injured.

In the weeks since there have been more than 100 reports, many unconfirmed, of contaminated strawberries and other fruit and the Queensland government approved a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The damage caused by the sabotage prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce a 10 to 15 year maximum prison sentence for food tampering offences, calling the perpetrator a "grub".

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