MPI reveals 3 needles were discovered in strawberries

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has revealed three needles were discovered in a punnet of Australian strawberries bought at an Auckland supermarket last week - and it might not be an isolated incident.

The needles were discovered in a punnet of Choice brand strawberries sourced from Western Australia and bought at St Lukes Countdown.

The Ministry has released a timeline of the contamination scare, which shows it took MPI three hours to alert Australian authorities.

Timeline of the scare


Sunday, 23 Sept 3:55pm - Woolworths NZ informed MPI of the findings of three needles in three strawberries from one punnet. Confirmation that Police have been informed. MPI requests details.

Sunday, 23 Sept 4pm - Woolworths NZ initiates withdrawal of all Choice brand strawberries in all Countdown stores who stock them.

Sunday, 23 Sept 4:20pm - MPI requests additional information from Woolworths.

Sunday, 23 Sept 4:36pm - Woolworths NZ sends MPI summary of situation and photos. Confirmation in writing that Police have been informed.

Sunday, 23 Sept 4:40pm - MPI assessment of information provided.

Sunday, 23 Sept 5:47pm - Woolworths NZ informs MPI that it has issued a press release.

Sunday, 23 Sept 6:20pm - Woolworths NZ agree to MPI direction of destruction testing (cutting up all withdrawn strawberries to determine if any needles are present).

Sunday, 23 Sept 7:00pm - MPI informs Australian authorities.

How well was the crisis handled?


On Tuesday, The AM Show host Duncan Garner grilled Food Safety NZ - part of MPI - asking why it took so long to react.

Now, Food Safety NZ director of food regulation Paul Dansted says this might not be the only needle contamination in New Zealand.

"One of the things we are concerned about of course is it may not be an isolated incident," he told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"We do get threats of this sort - not necessarily needles - but contamination on a semi-regular basis."

In the wake of the needle crisis, Australia has introduced mandatory checks for strawberry exports. Mr Dansted says he has faith in the Australian checks and it's possible the needles made it through before these were put in place.

"On Wednesday last week the Australian government put in place new restrictions so any strawberries exported from Australia need to go through metal detection or x-ray to determine they don't have any contamination," he says.

"It could have come in beforehand, it could have been in the water. Those details are being worked through."

He's also not ruling out a New Zealand culprit, saying police have launched an investigation.