Food safety boss says rat foot found in Pak'nSave garlic bread could have come from complainant's home

The deputy director of food safety in Aotearoa is confident Pak'nSave Te Awamutu knows what it's doing despite a local mum finding a rat's foot in garlic bread she purchased from the store.  

The Waikato mum heated up the garlic bread for her 10-month-old son on Friday, but was horrified when she found a rodent foot in his mouth.  

"I turned around just for a split second, and I saw something that wasn't garlic bread in my son's mouth. I was like 'What the heck!'" she told Newshub. 

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The woman complained to staff who apologised and offered her a refund or replacement garlic bread. But the woman said that wasn't enough given her son could have swallowed the foot without her noticing. 

Ministry for Primary Businesses New Zealand Food Safety Deputy Director-General Vince Arbuckle said it's extremely rare for something like this to happen.  

"This is a rare occurrence, we don't get complaints like this very often. We are taking it seriously and we are working closely with Foodstuffs [which owns Pak'nSave] and their supplier to understand what may have caused this," Arbuckle said.  

"It's an unusual complaint. It's very unusual to find this in a processed product like this but the investigation will find out what has happened." 

He said all food businesses have plans to identify and avoid contamination and the risks of pests getting into food is extremely low.  

"There are various ways in which these things can happen. It could be a supplier like the flour, it could be something at the bakery itself, it could be the supermarket or in some cases, these things do happen at the homes. So, we will investigate and find out what happened. 

"We do know that sometimes items do appear in people's homes in their foods. Unusual things do happen. It's part of what we will investigate all the way through and we will find out what caused it." 

Arbuckle said all food businesses are subject to regular hygiene inspections and in his experience, the store in question "knows what it's doing".  

"They're a large and well-established business so we will double-check it, but I am pretty confident this business knows what it's doing and will be following its food control plan." 

This rodent foot was nearly swallowed by the Waikato mum's 10-month-old son.
This rodent foot was nearly swallowed by the Waikato mum's 10-month-old son. Photo credit: Supplied

After not getting the response she wanted from store staff the mum posted about her experience to Facebook, and a friend of hers reposted it on Pak'nSave's public Facebook page. Shortly afterwards a compliance manager got in touch with the mum. 

She said they assured her they were investigating and offered to pay their "medical bills" and associated costs. 

But she said she didn't want a refund, she wanted the garlic bread recalled.  

"I said to them: 'I don't want a refund, I don't want anything like that. You need to get this garlic bread off the shelf'." 

A Foodstuffs spokesperson told Newshub the company takes food safety seriously, and they have strict processes and protocols in place to ensure the highest standards. 

"Immediately after the customer got in touch, the store team took the batch of garlic bread off the shelves straight away, advised the supplier - and the customer has brought the product back to the store and was offered a refund." 

The product arrives at Pak'nSave fully wrapped and sealed, the spokesperson added. 

They added a "thorough investigation" was initiated as soon as they became aware of the complaint.  

"As a precautionary measure, Foodstuffs (Pak'nSave, New World, Four Square, Gilmours & Trents) have initiated a trade recall, which means they're removing the same batch of the garlic bread product from all shelves nationwide. 

"The store team is in regular contact with the customer who is understandably very concerned and, together with the supplier, Ministry of Primary Industries and NZ Food Safety, we're working with urgency to get to the bottom of what's happened here."