Woolworths NZ probes food safety after store closed due to rodent infestation

Two rats were spotted sitting on the supermarket's shelf, while in another incident a mouse was seen running over a potato salad.

A Woolworths store in New Zealand remains closed while a major investigation into the supermarket continues after footage of multiple rodents in the store went viral.

A photo taken from inside the Countdown store in Dunedin — a subsidiary of Woolworths, which is in the process of rebranding all its stores under the Woolworths name — shows two large rats sitting on a shelf, looking out at customers. And it's far from an isolated incident for the apparently rat-ridden supermarket chain.

Days earlier, a mouse was spotted scurrying over potato salad in the deli section of a separate store in the city of Christchurch.

Rats sitting on a supermarket shelf in Denedin South in New Zealand.
The rats were spotted in Countdown, Dunedin South, sitting on a shelf and looking up at customers. Source: NewsHub

The incidents have forced New Zealand Food Safety to launch an independent review of Woolworths' pest management process across its New Zealand stores, while Countdown has been carrying out its own rat catchments.

Since Friday, when the Dunedin store stopped trading, 19 rats have been caught, Stuff.co.nz reported, while a spokesperson for Woolworths New Zealand told Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday afternoon that just one had been captured within the last 24 hours.

“We can confirm there was one rodent captured in Countdown Dunedin South in the past 24 hours,” they said.

“Having a safe and hygienic store is incredibly important to us and we have agreed with New Zealand Food Safety (a division of the Ministry of Primary Industries) that we will keep the store closed until there has been a 48 hour period with no captures in the store.”

Entry way into Countdown in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Countdown has been forced to launch a thorough probe. Source: NewsHub

Woolworths also confirmed it is working alongside the Ministry for Primary Industries on its independent review of its pest-management process nationwide by AssureQuality.

“We would like to thank our customers and community for their understanding as we continue to address the rodent issue at Countdown Dunedin South,” the spokesperson said.

“We would like to apologise for any distress and inconvenience this issue is causing our community. We continue to work closely with New Zealand Food Safety and Renotokil, and will provide regular updates as needed.”

Ongoing infestation

The Dunedin South store has been plagued with rats for months, according to reports.

On January 5 and 11, New Zealand Food Safety received information about the possible presence of rats, Stuff.co.nz reported, but it turned out that the shop had been working to resolve a rodent issue since late last year and hadn’t escalated the matter, leading to an investigation on January 24.

While over at the Christchurch store, it’s believed proper protocol wasn’t followed when the mouse was spotted on top of the potato salad and that the food in the deli counter wasn’t disposed of immediately.

A mouse in a potato salad in Countdown in Eastgate, Christchurch.
A mouse was spotted standing on potato salad at Eastgate Countdown in Christchurch. Source: NewsHub

Coles worker steps forward to reveal rat problem

In November last year, Coles made headlines after an outgoing employee came forward to expose a “complete” infestation at one of the supermarket’s major distribution centres in Queensland.

After six years at the facility, the picker and packer revealed to Yahoo News Australia what was really goes on inside the warehouse, after sneaking his mobile phone into the centre, despite it being banned.

"I just think the public has a right to know how these sorts of companies pursue profit at all costs, and screw them," said the disgruntled employee, who asked not to be named, while sharing photos of rats running across the ground.

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