The Government is concerned about the discovery of a needle in a punnet of strawberries at an Auckland supermarket - and wants answers on why more checking was not in place.

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said today he wanted to know why more was not done to check the fruit before it was put on shelves.

"I'll be asking questions around what had been done after the situation in Australia to check strawberries coming into the country," he told Sky News.

O'Connor said he would have thought that the importers and the supermarket would have checked, given the whole situation of potential copycat incidents after reports in Australia of needles being found in fruit.


On Sunday, Countdown withdrew the 'Australian Choice' brand of strawberries from its shelves after needles were found in a punnet in an Auckland supermarket.

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

The supermarket is advising consumers to cut up strawberries before eating them.
The incident has prompted some Kiwi strawberry farmers to look at buying metal detectors.

Speaking in New York, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry for Primary Industries was working on the issue.

"Obviously it looks like they were able to quite narrowly define the origin of the issue, obviously with the reporting in Australia.

"But as I say MPI are working to ensure they are across the issue and giving the advice to consumers that they need."

Meanwhile the spate of sabotaged strawberries has prompted a leading sociologist to call for calm.

New Zealand consumers who have 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 the person who reported the incident was not harmed as the needles were found before anyone had eaten them.

The incident follows more than 100 reports of fruit being tampered with across Australia.

University of Canterbury Professor of Sociology Greg Newbold said it was likely a "copycat situation".

"It has become a bit of a fad. Somebody has seen they can get publicity, become famous for an afternoon. As long as hysteria is generated it will keep feeding into the problem."

The drive of those behind it was similar to pyromaniacs.

"It creates panic and they get a reaction, much in the same way pyromaniacs set fires then watch fire brigades arrive to put them out

"It can make them feel important in their mostly insignificant lives."

The best way to deal with these situations was to downplay them, Newbold said.

"Millions and millions of dollars of strawberries are being thrown out.

"The most rational way to deal with it is to put them back on the shelves, put up a warning sign saying be careful, maybe put a 10 per cent discount on or something like that. Then people can make their own choices.

"All you need to do is put a knife in, or bite gently – you're not going to hurt yourself.

"That would end the whole situation, and would not feed into the egos of the people who are doing it. This is a huge storm in a teacup."

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 and Four Square - did not stock Choice strawberries.