All strawberries imported to New Zealand from Australia will be subject to a screening process across the Tasman before hitting New Zealand supermarket shelves, the Government has said.

This follows Countdown withdrawing the Australian Choice brand of Strawberries from its stores after needles were found in a punnet in their St Lukes, Auckland, supermarket.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said the Government is doing the best it can with the resources it has in regards to the issue.

Speaking to reporters at the Prime Minister's weekly post-cabinet press conference yesterday while Jacinda Ardern is in New York, Peters said there will be "no more strawberries coming into this country without [them] all being screened, into the future."


In a statement, Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said the Government takes a proportionate approach to all risk.

"Like all food imports, strawberries from Australia are supported by Government-to-Government assurances.

"In this instance, to manage a criminal threat, Australian authorities have decided to impose metal detection screening of all strawberry exports."

New Zealand Police have confirmed an investigation is underway concerning the Countdown sabotage but Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson said it is still too early to comment in any detail.

He is asking the public to contact police immediately if anything suspicious is found in food products.

Earlier today, O'Connor was asking New Zealanders not to overreact, as it is "just one punnet of strawberries where some idiot has put something into it."

NZ Food Safety and the police are now in the process of conducting a thorough inquiry into finding "the idiot who did this", O'Connor said.

"We're really concerned about all food safety issues – clearly this is a criminal act more than a food safety act."


He also said Countdown could have done more to prevent the situation.
Peters said it was a difficult situation, as the more the issue is "hyped up," the more likely it is that copycat incidents will occur.

Meanwhile, pan-produce organisation United Fresh is leading a major New Zealand-led project review of the traceability systems in the produce sector.

Its president, Jerry Prendergast, says there are systems in place to deal with risks to food supply but these need to be reviewed regularly and cover all steps of the supply chain.

The review, which was co-funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) was launched earlier this year and will continue until 2021.