World

Needles found in strawberries in NZ

By AAP Newswire

A punnet of Australian strawberries contaminated with needles has been found in New Zealand in the first such reported case across the Tasman.

The fruit, imported from Western Australia and sold under the Choice brand, had been sold at a supermarket in Auckland, Woolworths-owned Countdown - one of NZ's two major supermarket groups.

Countdown said on Sunday that remaining stock of the brand was pulled off its shelves. It was sold nationwide last week and had not previously been flagged as a concern.

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.

"Police are taking this report seriously and are investigating together with our colleagues at the Ministry for Primary Industries," a spokeswoman said.

Countdown said it had also alerted authorities in Australia.

It is urging NZ residents to cut up strawberries before eating them.

The company earlier this week announced it had stopped importing further Australian strawberries as a precaution, following scares across the states, while competitor Foodstuffs halted distribution to its stores.

Australian strawberries are exported to NZ from April to September and local strawberries began appearing on shelves this week in their place.

More than a dozen instances of strawberry contamination have been reported in WA, while more than 100 reports of tampered fruit are being investigated by police across Australia.