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Rat Foot Investigation Closed

New Zealand Food Safety has closed its investigation into a rat foot discovered in prepackaged garlic bread, concluding the foot was not introduced in the commercial food supply chain.

“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.

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

“We are grateful for any complaints and information we receive from the public and use them as the starting point for further enquiries. We are always guided by the evidence as food safety is too important to make assumptions.

“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.”

A key consideration in the investigation was the fact that while the garlic bread was cooked twice – once as part of the manufacturing process and once in the home – the rat foot was raw. This shows the foot must have been introduced to the food in the home after it was cooked.

In addition, investigators looked at all the stages in the garlic bread’s production and found:

The garlic bread manufacturer, French Bakery, had good food safety procedures in place and had no evidence of rodent activity over the past two years.

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The transportation and storage facility, Big Chill and Foodstuffs North Island Distribution Centre, had good procedures in place. All pallets containing the product are plastic wrapped. There was no evidence of damage to wrapped product and a review of CCTV footage revealed no suspicious activity while the order was being packed.

The retailer, Pak’n’Save Te Awamutu, only added a label to the outside of the product. There was no evidence of any issues related to the complaint.

  • The complainant confirmed the bread was cooked in the home before serving.

A forensic analysis of the bread and foot by AsureQuality confirmed:

  • The foot recovered from the complainant was from a rat.
  • The foot was not cooked.

Mr 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.”

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