An infestation of rats at a Dunedin supermarket has prompted an investigation by food safety officials for the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Woolworths New Zealand has confirmed a recent increase in “pest activity” at its Countdown Dunedin South store with a pest control contractor now making daily visits to the Andersons Bay Rd premises.
The supermarket is ramping up its cleaning procedures, bolstered by “further deep cleaning” with additional bait stations being placed on site to counter the rat rampage.
A spokesperson for the supermarket chain said it had a comprehensive pest management plan in place to deal with the situation.
“Using our specialist pest control contractor we are confident that the measures we are taking are effective.
“Food safety is our absolute priority.”
Woolworths said it was encouraging staff to report any pest activity, or signs of it, so it could adjust its plan of attack accordingly.
The Ministry’s New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said it had received complaints about the problem and were investigating.
“Food business are required to ensure the food they sell is safe and suitable for customers’ consumption,” he said.
“This includes pest management requirements. As part of this process, food businesses are registered and regularly checked by an independent verifier.
“The verifier will check there are systems in place to ensure pests cannot enter food businesses and the pests are managed if they manage to do so.”
MPI is now working with the supermarket to determine the problem and to ensure it was rectifying it.
“If there is a problem, the food business is supported to make changes.
“If the food business does not put in place necessary corrective actions, [New Zealand Food Safety] can use enforcement tools to correct the situation.”
The Otago Daily Times said an employee reported a handful of rats were first detected inside the store in October.
Since then, they had multiplied and the supermarket was now “infested”, they said.
The staff member, who spoke to the ODT under anonymity, said droppings and urine had been evident for some time, but the rats were now increasingly visible, even during business hours.
“We’re selling food to the public that rats have been running over.
“It’s a bloody disgrace. There are rats in the aisles. This is the 21st century, not Captain bloody Cook days.”