Paddy Gower Has Issues: Karen O'Leary investigates if it's okay to fondle fruit before buying it

  • 01/11/2023

Thousands of Kiwis squeeze the fruit in supermarkets to see if they're okay to buy. But is the produce-prodding practice acceptable, or are we disrespecting other shoppers and creating unnecessary food waste?  

Karen O'Leary investigated the controversial topic in the latest episode of Paddy Gower Has Issues.  

"It's only normal to pick up fruit and have a look at it, but I'm talking about people who squeeze the crap out of it," says Kristy Phillips of Tauranga, who raised the issue via an email to Karen. 

"It makes me quite annoyed... you just need to touch it gently." 

The intrepid community investigator confirmed Kristy's complaints by talking to random shoppers outside of Tauranga's PAK'nSAVE. An astounding 90 percent of them admitted to fondling fruit in the supermarket.  

O'Leary managed to get a self-confessed 'apple flicker' to sit down on camera and describe why he does what he does.  

"It's the only way to reliably tell if you're going to buy a fresh apple," the anonymous fruit-flicker said.  

"It's real simple, take two apples, give them a flick to see which is better. The higher pitch is the better apple." 

He is, however, leaving behind a very flicked apple for another unassuming shopper to take home. 

Surely supermarkets don't want flicked and squeezed produce on their shelves, so O'Leary sat down with Brigit Corson from Foodstuffs North Island to see what they're doing about it.  

"Probably, the answer is nothing," Corson said, shocking O'Leary.  

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Colson said we are lucky to even be able to touch the fresh produce in the first place. Only 15 percent of produce in the UK is sold loose, compared to about 70 percent in New Zealand.  

But what about the waste fruit-fondling creates? 

"Things like (squeezed) bananas end up in our bakeries, and we make banana bread."  

Corson said supermarkets will still use the bruised fruit and vege in other departments. 

"In the last year, we've diverted 9000 tonnes of food waste." 

That's a nice statistic, but O'Leary is sure the fruit doesn't have to be bruised in the first place and wants to get an official call on the problem. Reaching out to the President of United Fresh, Jerry Prendergast, Karen gets the final call on whether fruit-fondling is an acceptable practice for shoppers.  

"The produce actually belongs to the store at that point, so it's about being respectful," said Jerry. "Once you get that produce home, you can do what you like with it." 

He shares with Karen his mantra: don't squeeze me until I'm yours. 

"If it looks like it's good quality, there's a very good chance it will be," Prendergast states. 

"It's unlikely fruit and vegetables are trying to trick you?" Karen asks. 


So the official call is that you don't need to fondle fruit to decide if you should buy it. Use your eyes to look for colour and touch for texture, but don't squeeze or flick - leaving behind bruised fruit for others to buy.  

If you have an issue you'd like Karen to tackle, email 

Patrick Gower hosts Paddy Gower Has Issues - watch it on Three or ThreeNow.