Needle found in Australian strawberries sold in New Zealand

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Needle found in Australian strawberries sold in New Zealand

Only Australian strawberries have been found with needles - even the one yesterday in an Auckland Countdown.

It was not yet clear whether the needles had been inserted in Australia or after export, New Zealand Minister for Primary Industries Damien O'Connor told Radio NZ on Monday.

"Customers can return any Choice brand of strawberries they may have at home to Countdown for peace of mind and a full refund", the supermarket said in the statement carried by local media.

Countdown is also advising customers to cut up strawberries before eating them.

Asked specifically about which Countdown supermarket store the affected strawberries were found at, a spokeswoman would not say.

"This does not affect New Zealand strawberries which are now on our shelves", the chain clarified.

Foodstuffs operates Four Square, New World and Pak'nSave.

The problem seems to have started with a Facebook post earlier this month by a man who said his friend had swallowed part of a needle hidden in a strawberry and went to the hospital.

With the season and crop ready in a matter of about two weeks, he said growers were hoping the public would continue to buy the much-loved fruit.

Discussing the report on the radio this morning, Kiwi MP Damien O'Connor said there were fears the incident may have been caused by a copycat saboteur.

"Now we have to make sure that every time we buy strawberries it is safe".

We just need a bit more sunshine, daylight and warmth, and we will be underway to providing that traditionally positive feeling associated with New Zealand strawberries that summer and Christmas must be coming.

Countdown said remaining stock of the brand had been pulled off its shelves.

Australia's fruit sabotage has spread to neighbouring New Zealand after a punnet of strawberries contaminated with needles was sold in an Auckland supermarket.

Police in Australia suspect numerous reports of fruit contamination could be fake, or copycat contamination.

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