NZ chains drop Australian strawberries

Fears over needles in Australian strawberries have spilled across the Tasman, with both of New Zealand's major food distributors dropping the fruit as a precaution.

Both Foodstuffs and Countdown (owned by Woolworths) - which between them control nearly the entire New Zealand grocery market - on Monday announced they had stopped sending out Australian strawberries to their stores.

In separate statements, both said while none of their products had been affected by a major recall in Australia, they wanted to reassure customers.

Countdown said it had stopped ordering any further imports of Australian strawberries, while Foodstuffs had halted distribution.

New Zealand imports the fruit from Australia when it's out of season, from April to September, and both chains say the Kiwi product will be on shelves shortly instead.

The announcements come as needles were found inserted into more strawberries in South Australia and NSW over the weekend, adding to incidents across the country and prompting fears of copycat behaviour.

That discovery followed Coles and Aldi supermarkets pulling all strawberries from their shelves, except Western Australia, as a precaution.

Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries have recalled their strawberries nationwide.

A health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Australian Associated Press