Needles in NZ punnet

By Country News

The hunt for those sabotaging strawberries with needles has gone trans-Tasman, following the first report of a contaminated punnet in New Zealand.

On Sunday, Woolworth’s-owned supermarket chain Countdown announced it was removing Choice brand strawberries, imported from Western Australia, off shelves across New Zealand after a customer reported discovering needles in their fruit.

The company said it had alerted authorities in Australia, while NZ police and government agencies have also launched their own investigations.

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’.

Countdown last week announced it had halted imports of Australia strawberries to NZ for the season, while competitor Foodstuffs ceased shipping them to its stores.

Closer to home, the first case of a contaminated strawberry has been found in the Northern Territory.

Police and health officials are yet to say if the strawberry contained a needle in it.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the food safety watchdog to investigate Queensland’s handling of the strawberry spiking saga.

He has directed Food Standards Australia New Zealand to investigate whether there are supply chain weaknesses or systematic changes needed.