A New Zealand supermarket chain has made the decision to pull a brand of Australian berries from the shelf after they were found to be tampered with. The container containing the Choice brand strawberries was purchased in Auckland and were said to be pulled as a preventative measure.
The Daily Beast says that while no injuries have been reported, there have been 100 reports of sewing needles found in strawberries. Authorities say that if you are going to eat the strawberries, you should slice them before consuming.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says an investigation is being launched in Australia, as that is where all of the tainted strawberries have originated.
“It’s not a joke. It’s not funny. You’re putting the livelihoods of hardworking Australians at risk and you’re scaring children. You’re a coward and you’re a grub, and if you do that sort of thing in this country, we will come after you,” Morrison said.
CNN says that the Countdown food chain in New Zealand released a statement saying that customer safety is their highest priority.
“At Countdown, we take food safety very seriously and we have withdrawn any remaining Choice strawberries from sale from Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice supermarkets while we investigate this with our suppliers.”
A New Zealand supermarket chain is removing some Australian strawberries after needles were found in a container bought in Auckland. There were at least 100 reports of needles found in strawberries in Australia last week. https://t.co/sU5MhBRLBL pic.twitter.com/cjWZn6iNEp— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) September 23, 2018
BBC is reporting that New Zealand supermarket chains are offering a full refund for any strawberries that customers want to return. It has been a week since the first needle was found in strawberries in Queensland, Australia. Out of caution, Woolworths has temporarily stopped selling needles in the country.
The Australian government also quickly raised the penalty for tampering with fruit.
“The Australian government last week raised the maximum prison sentence for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years, and there is a reward of A$100,000 (£55,000; $72,000 USD) for anyone able to offer information.”
Fearing the scare, growers are dumping tons of fruit rather than risk future damage to the industry. Average strawberry sales on the continent of Australia are around $130 million a year. At this time, the prices of the berries are being slashed, and in the Western part of the country, the price is now below the cost of production.
Pulling sewing needles from the shelves at Woolworths might seem rash, but the store stands by its decision, says BBC.
“We’ve taken the precautionary step of temporarily removing sewing needles from sale in our stores across the country.”
The store says they want to show that they are trying to “do their bit” in the countrywide crisis.