'They’re the same’: Bunnings workers struggle to spot deadly product on shelf

Nine months after Bunnings promised to overhaul the way it sells products containing poisons linked to wildlife deaths, we decided to test its progress.

Yahoo News Australia visited three Sydney stores to review the retailer’s commitments to changing the way they display rat bait.

Their announcement came after rodenticides containing milder first-generation warfarin had been positioned alongside those laced with deadly second-generation brodifacoum – a poison linked to deaths of birds including owls and eagles.

A Bunnings staff member holds two Ratsak packages. A Bunnings store front.
Double Strength Ratsak (left) is less likely to kill wildlife than Fast Action Ratsak (right). Source: Yahoo

Amid growing public concern about the impact of these baits, and the difficulty consumers had in differentiating between active ingredients, Bunnings promised to:

  • Work with government and suppliers to include extra information on packaging.

  • Update website to help customers distinguish between first and second generation anticoagulants.

  • Create further training for team members to help improve knowledge about the topic.

  • Separate first and second generation rat baits, along with natural products on shelves.

We tested Bunnings' claims about rat bait varieties being separated on shelves

This week, we visited a small sample of Bunnings stores in Randwick, Alexandria, and Rose Bay, and found all three had warfarin, brodifacoum and naturals products stocked side-by-side.

Shelves at three seperate stores stocking Ratsak and other rodenticides.
Bunnings continues to stock it's various rodenticides side-by-side in Rose Bay, Randwick and Alexandria. Source: Yahoo

On Thursday, Bunnings confirmed that by separating products, they mean first generation products are grouped first on their shelves, followed by second generation products, and then natural-alternatives.

"To further assist customers in identifying which products are first generation or second generation rodenticides, we have completed the separation of the two varieties, along with naturally-derived rodenticides on our shelves across our store network," Bunnings' general manager of merchandise Adrian Pearce said.

Randwick and Rose Bay had their rat bait in a mixed order, while Alexandria, a larger store, had theirs grouped by poison.

We asked Bunnings staff which baits were more likely to harm wildlife

While Ratsak Naturals had clear packaging, telling the difference between products with other active ingredients proved difficult.

This was the case even for Bunnings staff, who struggled to identify which products were more likely to harm wildlife, despite "further training" recently having been launched by the company to help staff "improve their knowledge about this topic".

A Bunnings shelf display of rat bait.
Bunnings sell a wide variety of rat baits which they say are separated on their shelves. Source: Yahoo

At Randwick we asked a man behind the cash register the difference between second generation Ratsak Fast Action and first generation Ratsak Double Strength.

His response was: “They are the same thing.”

“That one’s just bigger,” he said, pointing to the Double Strength variety.

Over at Alexandria, a staff member on the floor said he was unsure of the difference between the two.

“They’re effectively the same, but the naturals one says it's better if you’ve got pets around," he said.

A team member at Rose Bay said he didn’t think there was any difference between Double Strength and Fast Action.

“I’m not sure why this one says Fast Action,” he said.

Birdlife Australia urges Bunnings to drop second generation rat baits

Yahoo News Australia has reported on the impact of rat baits since 2019.

That year, Yates, the manufacturer of Ratsak, confirmed they are aware of the risk to “non-target species”, and provided application directions and cautionary information to consumers.

A comparison of Double Strength and Fast Action Ratsak side by side.
One brand of Ratsak (left) contains first generation warfarin, while the other right contains second generation brodifacoum. Source: Yahoo

“This includes instructions on placement of baits, the use of bait stations and appropriate disposal of rodent carcasses,” a spokesperson said.

When shopping for rat bait, Dr Holly Parsons from Birdlife Australia doesn't think the responsibility should be on consumers to differentiate between active ingredients.

Arguing extra information provided by the retailer on packaging isn't helpful for customers, she has called on Bunnings to remove second generation products from their shelves.

"It still puts the onus on customers understanding that second generation products are more harmful to wildlife and deliberately avoiding them."

Speaking on behalf of Bunnings, Mr Pearce said the company will continue to work with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and its suppliers to "include additional information on product packaging".

"We continue to closely follow the advice of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), and work with our suppliers to innovate in this area," he said.

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