Strawberry sabotage spreads: New Zealand supermarket removes strawberries after needles found

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25 Sep 2018 --- A week after the first strawberries were found with needles inside them in Australia, in a dangerous food tampering act which has shocked the nation, needles have also been found in New Zealand strawberries.

Strawberry prices have plummeted across Australia, farmers have been forced to dump tons of the fruit and the strawberry sector has been battered as a result of one of the strangest food contamination stories which has seen needles found inside the fruit. 

And now the problem seems to have spread to New Zealand.

New Zealand supermarket chain Countdown is removing an Australian brand of strawberries from its stores across the country following an incident. Needles were discovered in a container of strawberries that had been purchased at a Countdown supermarket in Auckland.

Countdown, which is understood to be working with authorities in New Zealand and Australian, says removing the fruit is a precautionary measure and like other retailers in Australia, is advising consumers to cut into the fruit before eating it. 

“At Countdown, we take food safety very seriously and we have withdrawn any remaining Choice strawberries from sale from Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice supermarkets while we investigate this with our suppliers,” says a Countdown statement.

“Needles were found in a punnet of strawberries sourced from Western Australia, which was bought in a Countdown supermarket in Auckland. The Choice brand of strawberries was sold nationwide last week.”

“As an extra precaution and following similar advice from public health authorities in Australia, customers should cut up any Australian strawberries before eating them.”

“There have been no reports of any illness or injury in New Zealand. The strawberries affected by this withdrawal have not previously had any issues of this nature reported and had not been withdrawn from sale in Australia. This does not affect New Zealand strawberries which are now on our shelves.”

The Australian government has also increased the prison sentence for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years and officials have issued an A$100,000 reward for anyone able to offer information.

Since the widespread incidents of needles being found in strawberries in Australia, there has been debate over how much of the fruit tampering is copycat incidents and social media stunts.

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