Zespri is not anticipating any negative market reaction to its kiwifruit contamination scare that resulted in a precautionary hold being imposed on 1 per cent of fruit expected to be handled this season.

The implications of the discovery of mechanical lubricant on a very small number of tray liners have been outlined by the kiwifruit marketing company.

A precautionary hold had been put on 1.7 million trays of potentially affected kiwifruit while Zespri investigated.

The pocket packs which hold the fruit in place in the single-layer trays has been identified on less than 0.0001 per cent of pocket packs at this stage, Zespri's chief operating officer Simon Limmer said.


The story was broken by the Bay of Plenty Times on Friday after a news team spotted the unusual sight of pallets of export kiwifruit being unloaded from the Ice Glacier docked at the Port of Tauranga.

Asked whether there had been any negative reaction from overseas markets to the problem, Mr Limmer said the company's reputation for strong traceability systems and food safety meant there was a high level of customer understanding and support for its position.

"We continue to supply customers with kiwifruit in alternative packaging and we are working with customers to keep them informed."

They had isolated and managed the issue and potentially affected fruit was not with customers and consumers, he said.

Zespri has suspended the use of pocket packs from the single affected liner manufacturing plant. Kiwifruit packhouses also sourced pocket pack liners from Chile and New Zealand.

"We understand the lubricant deposits are due to a small leak from a grease line in a supplier's Chinese manufacturing plant."

Mr Limmer said Zespri had commissioned testing to confirm the exact composition of the lubricant.

"Once Zespri receives these results, it will make further decisions on how to manage this inventory, with customer safety the top priority. While there may be some delay to customer deliveries in some markets, Zespri does not anticipate these actions will have a material impact on the 2016 season."

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries chief executive Michael Franks said he had no concerns because of the processes and quality control systems in its packing sheds.

He said the incidence of contamination was very low and he was confident that Seeka's systems would have picked up any deficient product.

Every liner was individually handled and checked in packing sheds and, as far as he was aware, no contaminated product has been detected. "Everything is ring-fenced."

Mr Franks explained that the insertion of pocket packs was not automated. A person takes one off, looks at it, and if it is not clean discards it.

"They are trained to do this because at times of the year we used recycled liners. Essentially, every one is manually checked."

He was convinced Seeka did not have any contaminated liners, but once they became aware of the problem on Sunday night, they put in place additional checks to ensure no contaminated liners were in their inventory. Further detection measures were put in place at the tray preparation in-feed area.