There were two sales from a Countdown deli in Christchurch after a mouse was filmed crawling on a ready-to-eat salad in the cabinet.
Speaking to 1News, Woolworths director of stores Jason Stockill said after the mouse was spotted at Eastgate Countdown last Wednesday, the salad it crawled on was disposed of.
However, other items around it in the deli were not immediately removed and there were two further sales made that night.
“We hadn’t updated our food safety team at head office who would have advised us to destroy all of the product,” Stockill told 1News.
“That will require re-coaching and re-training for our store teams, we’ll continue to do that wider than just that one store.”
The development comes as New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said it will launch an independent review of Woolworths’ pest management process nationwide.
Regarding Eastgate, Arbuckle said he would have expected all food in the deli counter to have been thrown out.
“Our investigations into the Christchurch incident are continuing, however it appears proper procedures were not followed immediately after the mouse was spotted,” he said.
“We would expect the food in the deli counter to have been disposed of immediately.
“People are right to expect good levels of pest management and hygiene in supermarkets.
“We have asked Woolworths for a report on the Countdown Eastgate incident and on any other recent rodent issues.”
He said there was no evidence to suggest a wider rodent issue at Countdown Eastgate but had asked Woolworths to take a closer look at its pest control and escalation processes.
Stockill said the Christchurch incident happened around 7pm, while the store was doing its “final rundown” for the day.
“It didn’t close, but we’re still going through the investigation, and we’ll work with MPI, or New Zealand Food and our Rentokil partners to make sure we get the right outcome.
“I can confirm we did destroy the product which was obviously contaminated, we didn’t destroy the rest of it early enough. I can also confirm we did do two sales between 7pm and 9pm that night.”
“We’re still working with MPI to confirm what the next steps will be, as it’s an ongoing investigation.”
Stockhill said the incident in Christchurch was isolated, although Chris Lynch Media reported in May last year that a customer had spotted mouse droppings, urine and chewed packaging at the store.
Rats continued to be a problem at its South Dunedin Countdown, which is why it remained closed.
He confirmed at the Dunedin store rats were not nesting but have been entering and nesting somewhere nearby.
Stockill said two rats were caught last night and they wanted to wait 48 hours after the last sighting or capture before re-opening.
It was likely the store wouldn’t open before Saturday.
“We will remain closed until we’re happy.”
He also confirmed a further isolated sighting of a rodent had been reported in Timaru.
While confident in the company’s pest control and cleaning systems, Stockill said they were always open to improvement and doing more.
Stockhill said the vermin incidents are “not what we want to happen”.
“[Woolworths] are very proud of what we’re trying to do. We’re very proud and confident in our procedures. We just want to apologise for the inconvenience in our communities, and thank the team for their support as we’ve gone through… and thanks for the patience.”
Mouse caught at Pak’nSave
In Auckland, Foodstuffs confirmed a mouse was tracked and caught in a Pak’nSave store after being reported by a shopper.
“A lone mouse was sighted by a customer at Pak’nSave Lincoln Road in Auckland today, the incident was reported, and the mouse quickly caught,” a statement from the supermarket chain said. “The store’s pest control company have arrived at the store, all appropriate action will be promptly taken, and additional measures put in place if required.”
The Foodstuffs statement said all the company’s stores managed an ongoing Food Control Plan and were regularly serviced by an appointed pest control service provider.
“The store has an excellent record of food safety and hygiene, with the last pest management service being provided and passed on the February 8, 2024.”