Anyone who has bought Australian Choice brand strawberries are advised to return them after needles were found in a punnet bought at St Lukes Countdown in Auckland.

Police said they received a report on Sunday about a person finding needles inside strawberries they had recently purchased.

"The person who reported the incident was not harmed as the needles were found before anyone had eaten them."

Police were investigating the incident with the Ministry for Primary Industries.


An MPI spokeswoman said they were aware of a report of needles being found in imported Australian Choice brand strawberries bought recently from St Lukes Countdown in Auckland.

The brand of strawberries was not implicated in the Australian contamination incident and associated recalls.

MPI recommended anyone who had purchased the Choice brand of Australian strawberries should as a precaution return them to the retailer.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and based on the information to date do not believe further action is currently required."

Countdown warned customers to cut up strawberries before eating them.

The supermarket chain has withdrawn the Choice brand strawberries - in which the needles were found - from the shelves at Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice outlets.

The Choice brand of strawberries, sourced from Western Australia, were sold nationwide last week.

"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.


"As an extra precaution and following similar advice from public health authorities in Australia, customers should cut up any Australian strawberries before eating them," it said.

"Countdown is in contact with both New Zealand and Australian authorities as they investigate this matter."

The spokeswoman told the Herald that apart from this discovery, no other strawberries with needles had been reported across the Countdown store network in New Zealand.

Foodstuffs said last week it would halt the distribution of Australian strawberries in New Zealand.

Its supermarkets - Pak'n Save, New World, Four Square - did not stock Choice strawberries.

Strawberry Growers NZ said although the affected berries were from Australia, farmers here were becoming concerned.

Some of those growers were now looking at adding metal detectors to their production line in a bid to reassure consumers.

Executive manager Michael Ahern said some growers had been looking into metal detectors.

About 80 growers were associated with the volunteer industry group but it was estimated there were about 150 strawberry farmers nationwide, not including many smaller businesses.

Ahern said it was important to understand a lot of strawberry sales in New Zealand were carried out at farmers' markets and local areas within communities.

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.

"What really is the question is would consumers be put off by what they're hearing, I guess. And so far not. It's early days, but so far not.

"I'm not too casual about it either. We're very worried. There's a lot of money on the line, it's a seasonal business and I guess we're just trying to manage the unknown."