'Ongoing trend' of plastic contamination in Foodstuffs pre-packaged butchery products, MPI says

Recalls due to plastic pieces found in store-branded, pre-packaged mince sold by some New World and PAK'nSAVE supermarkets have tripled this year, despite calls from the Ministry for Primary Industries to address the issue.

A Pak'n Save-branded tray of mince that was recalled in June 2019 due to possible plastic contamination. Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

At least 10 recall incidents of pre-packaged mince of various weights due to foreign matter - plastic - contamination from the supermarket brands have been reported to MPI this year. Last year there were three incidents for the same reason. 

The parent company of the supermarkets, Foodstuffs New Zealand, was asked to provide an action plan by MPI in May this year. However, since then seven more recalls were issued.

"In May 2019, given the ongoing trend of foreign matter found in butchery products at Foodstuffs NZ stores, MPI requested an action plan from Foodstuffs NZ that included identification of root causes and corrective actions. The action plan includes a review of procedures and associated staff training," a spokesperson for MPI told 1 NEWS. 

This year, in total, eight recalls were from the North Island and two from the South Island stores. 

MPI says it has not received any reports of illness or injuries associated with the recalls.

Foodstuffs would not comment on whether the issue had been addressed or rectified but in a statement told 1 NEWS it takes food safety "and our responsibilities very seriously".

"Our goal is zero recalls, but will never hesitate from initiating one, even as a precaution, as there is no margin for error when it comes to ensuring food safety. When they do occur we learn from the experience, and if appropriate make changes to our processes across the business," said Antoinette Laird, head of corporate affairs & CSR for Foodstuffs New Zealand.

"With regard to minced meat and sausage product recalls, some have originated from customer feedback but there have been no reported negative impact on health. The majority of the actions taken have been as a result of stringent instore monitoring, reporting, risk management and subsequent corrective action when required, all working closely with the MPI who sign off on all recall actions," she said. 

MPI says the Foodstuffs NZ action-plan is ongoing. It is currently investigating three recent reports of soft plastic in minced beef products that have resulted in consumer level recalls.

A spokesperson for Countdown Supermarkets told 1 NEWS there have been no recalls on any of their mince products this year.