Christchurch's Countdown Eastgate mouse-in-salad controversy is second rodent issue in a year 

The discovery of a mouse scurrying across an uncovered salad at Christchurch's Eastgate Countdown is the second time in less than a year a rodent issue has been discovered at the store.  

It comes as New Zealand Food Safety announced it will undertake an independent review of pest-management processes across parent-company Woolworths' New Zealand operations. 

In May 2023, Chris Lynch Media reported a customer spotted mice droppings, urine and gnawed food packaging at the Eastgate store.  

The incident happened in April when a customer and her children were shopping for groceries.  

She noticed a damaged box of muesli bars and upon further inspection she saw it had been chewed by mice.    

"When I smelled the ammonia and started pulling everything off the shelves, I found that there was a huge infestation of mice poo and obviously pee," she told the outlet.  

The customer notified the manager who called for the cleaners to clean it up.  

A Countdown representative told Chris Lynch Media at the time, "food safety and hygiene is our absolute priority, and we have comprehensive pest management plans in place in all of our stores, including Countdown Eastgate.    

"Following this customer raising their concerns with our team, we've continued with an intensive cleaning process and we're continuing to work with our pest management provider to eradicate any further pest activity."   

This is similar to the statement provided to Newshub on Monday regarding the video of the mouse in the deli salad.    

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"While rodent control is an ongoing focus for the food industry and we believe this was an isolated incident, we take this extremely seriously and are reviewing our pest management control programme for the store alongside Rentokil," Woolworths New Zealand director of stores Jason Stockill said.   

Stockill said it was reported to Rentokil, an exterminating and pest control company, which identified some entry points that have now been sealed.     

Newshub has contacted Woolworths with queries about how isolated the incident was, considering the Eastgate store's history, and what progress has been made to address the most recent incident.    

New Zealand Food Safety sent a Food Compliance Officer to investigate on Monday, and on Tuesday the Government body announced it would be enlisting the services of quality management company AsureQuality to check pest-management processes across Woolworths' New Zealand operation.

"Our investigations into the Christchurch incident are continuing, however it appears proper procedures were not followed immediately after the mouse was spotted," New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle told Newshub in a statement.  

"We would expect the food in the deli counter to have been disposed of immediately." 

He said people are right to expect good levels of pest management and hygiene in supermarkets. 

"We have asked Woolworths for a report on the Countdown Eastgate incident and on any other recent rodent issues," he said. 

"We reserve the right to take further action, like we have in Dunedin where we recommended that the Countdown Dunedin South be shut and remain closed until NZFS and Woolworths are satisfied that there is evidence that the new pest-control measures have worked. 

"We will continue to monitor Woolworths' work to manage this issue, and the one in Dunedin."    

Last year Stuff reported on a rodent issue at Woolworths new Timaru development.   

“We are aware that there have been some reports of mice in the wider development, and we have stepped up our pest management at Countdown Timaru North,” a spokesperson for the supermarket told Stuff at the time. 

The Dunedin South Countdown store is currently closed for pest control work after rats were discovered.      

"With our increased pest management and the uncovering of the extra entry points, there were 13 rats caught over the weekend," a Woolworths New Zealand spokesperson told Newshub on Monday.   

Countdown said there are no signs of nesting within either of the stores.