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Revealed: Source of rat foot found while eating Pak'nSave garlic bread

Author
Kirsty Wynn,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Apr 2024, 1:03pm
Forensic analysis by New Zealand Food Safety found the foot was raw and could not have come from the pre-cooked garlic bread. Photo / supplied
Forensic analysis by New Zealand Food Safety found the foot was raw and could not have come from the pre-cooked garlic bread. Photo / supplied

Revealed: Source of rat foot found while eating Pak'nSave garlic bread

Author
Kirsty Wynn,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Apr 2024, 1:03pm

An investigation into a rat foot discovered in a toddler’s mouth who was eating pre-packaged garlic bread has found the foot was raw and could not have been in the bread before it was heated in the home.  

New Zealand Food Safety has closed its investigation into the discovery of rat’s foot in garlic bread purchased at Pak’nSave Te Awamutu in March.  

Local woman Shannon Bellwood said her 10-month-old son was eating the store-bought garlic bread when she pulled a rat’s foot from the toddler’s mouth last month.  

The mum of two called her local Pak’nSave immediately with her complaint spurring a nationwide recall of the foil-wrapped garlic bread. 

But the investigation found the “home was the most likely source” of the foot as forensic investigations found the foot was raw. The garlic bread had been cooked twice before it was served to the toddler - once by the bakery and again in the home. 

“We thoroughly investigated the complaint and can now rule out the manufacturer, distributor, distribution centre and retailer as possible sources of the foot,” says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle. 

The foot was found in the toddler's mouth when he was eating the garlic bread. Photo / SuppliedThe foot was found in the toddler's mouth when he was eating the garlic bread. Photo / Supplied 

While this left the home as the likely source of the rat’s foot, the complainant had raised the issue in good faith, Arbuckle said. 

Bellwood said she was in shock when she was contacted by NZFS with the news the foot was raw and must have come from her home. 

“I was like ‘what the?’ I had just cleaned the whole house and kitchen and there was nothing on the bench as I literally just cleaned it,” Bellwood told the Herald. 

“I was right there next to my kids when they were eating so I’m just as lost as everyone else to be honest.” 

She confirmed she had raised the issue in good faith and genuinely believed the foot came from the bread. Bellwood said she lived rurally and had a cat at the time the foot was found. 

A spokesperson for Foodstuffs on behalf of Pak’nSave Te Awamutu said the situation was distressing for everyone involved including the customer “who genuinely believed at the time that the rodent foot came from the garlic bread her child was eating.” 

The complaint led to a nationwide recall of the pre-packaged garlic bread. Photo / SuppliedThe complaint led to a nationwide recall of the pre-packaged garlic bread. Photo / Supplied 

Foodstuffs said the supplier and the team at Pak’nSave Te Awamutu had come under intense scrutiny but had “followed all the right protocols in such a difficult and understandably highly emotional situation.” 

The spokesperson said the supermarket took all complaints seriously and urged customers to approach a staff member with any concerns. 

New Zealand Food Safety said complaints of foreign matter in food were always fully investigated. 

“We are always guided by the evidence as food safety is too important to make assumptions,” Arbuckle said. 

“We understood there was a lot of interest in this case and stepped through our investigation carefully so we could be certain of our findings.” 

Investigators also looked at all the stages in the garlic bread’s production and found garlic bread manufacturer, French Bakery, had good food safety procedures in place and had no evidence of rodent activity over the past two years. 

Owner Gary Barber did not want to comment on the findings that cleared his bakery but described the situation as “unfortunate.” 

The investigation also found the transportation and storage facility, Big Chill and Foodstuffs North Island Distribution Centre, had good procedures in place. 

All pallets containing the product were plastic-wrapped and there was no evidence of damage to wrapped product. 

A review of CCTV footage revealed no suspicious activity while the order was being packed. 

Retailer, Pak’n’Save Te Awamutu, only added a label to the outside of the product. 

Arbuckle said where food businesses were found to cause food contamination, they would be held accountable and required to put in place corrective actions. 

“The vast majority of food businesses in New Zealand strive to produce safe food and have in place programmes to ensure this.” 

Kirsty Wynn is an Auckland-based journalist with more than 20 years experience in New Zealand newsrooms. She has covered everything from crime and social issues to the property market and consumer affairs. 

This article was originally posted on the NZ Herald here. 

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