Pest controllers caught 13 rats at South Dunedin’s Countdown at the weekend.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) recommended that operators Woolworths New Zealand not reopen the store.
Woolworths said there was still no evidence of rats nesting in the store, but work at the weekend, while the store was closed for pest control, uncovered new “entry points” the store had been unaware of.
Woolworths director of stores Jason Stockill said on Friday the store would close for at least the weekend so pest control efforts could be stepped up, after four rats were caught at the store over the past week.
Woolworths New Zealand confirmed this photo of a rat, reflected in a mirror in the deli section, was taken at its Dunedin South Countdown supermarket.
Yesterday, Stockill said the store would remain closed today as further rat control efforts were under way.
This morning, MPI’s New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said 13 rats had been caught at the store over the weekend.
Arbuckle said the store would reopen only with the ministry’s approval.
“The store will reopen once NZFS and Woolworths are satisfied that there is evidence that the new pest-control measures have worked.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and a senior NZFS food compliance officer is onsite to assist.”
Countdown Dunedin South, 323 Andersons Bay Rd. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Countdown Dunedin South, at 323 Andersons Bay Rd, came to national attention last month after staff members told the Otago Daily Times rats were running rampant in the store and they feared the public could have been sold contaminated food.
A photo, taken in November last year, was then supplied to the Otago Daily Times, which Countdown confirmed showed a rat in its South Dunedin deli section.
On Friday, Stockill said he thought the issue had been addressed since there had been no evidence of rodent activity at the store from January 28 until last week, but four rodents being caught over a few days showed there was more work to do.
An employee, who asked not to be named, said on Friday that, while the store’s rat issue had been taken seriously of late, the initial response was slow.
“From the beginning, management minimised this, saying there was one rat,” they said.
“We lost a lot of time with that, trying to convince management that this was a problem.”
A Woolworths spokesman said the company believed “all entry sites have been identified - and now sealed”.
“With our increased pest management and the uncovering of the extra entry points, there were 13 rats caught over the weekend.”
Some readers have raised concerns food was being transported from the South Dunedin store to other Countdowns in the city.
However, the spokesman said no food was moved from the store, transported or sold at other locations.
He also addressed concerns there were issues at neighbouring properties.
“While we can not comment on the surrounding areas, NZ Food Safety is working with the local council surveying neighbouring areas as part of a co-ordinated response.”
A Dunedin City Council spokesman said on Friday there was no indication neighbours had contributed to the issue.
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