Oamaru supermarkets are taking steps to secure and monitor infant formula, while local milk plants are planning to beef up security after threats to contaminate the product were revealed on Tuesday.
At a press conference in Auckland, police and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced investigations were taking place after threats to contaminate infant formula with 1080 poison were made in November, in the form of letters to Federated Farmers and Fonterra.
The anonymous letters contained milk powder laced with 1080 and said formula would be contaminated with the pesticide if New Zealand did not stop using it by the end of March.
Countdown Oamaru and both New World supermarkets, at South Hill and the North End, have pulled the products from shelves.
At Countdown, customers have been advised infant formula is only available when specifically asked for at checkouts, while at New World, the product is being stored behind the checkouts, but is still freely accessible to the public.
New World stores have an information sheet produced by MPI in relation to the threat available to customers.
Countdown Oamaru manager Barry Ware and Northside New World owner James Backhouse said they were unable to comment on the threat and the security measures the stores had taken, and directed all inquiries to the companies’ respective head offices.
One Oamaru mother, who did not wish to be named, told the Oamaru Mail she thought the threat was “stupid”, and hoped it would not amount to anything.
“I would like to think no-one would actually do it,” she said.
Countdown acting general manager Steve Donohue said the threat would worry customers and the supermarket had put additional security measures in place, from the time the product arrived in distribution centres to when it was purchased in stores.
“As a retailer of infant formula, Countdown is doing everything possible to keep infant formula safe in our supermarkets.
“Some of these security measures will mean it takes a little bit more time for customers to purchase infant formula, but together these steps will ensure constant monitoring of the product, either in person or by CCTV.
“Consumer safety is our absolute priority and we are supporting the NZ police and MPI investigation in any way we can.”
Mr Donohue said extra security measures included additional checks and monitoring in all Countdown distribution centres, extra checks in stores before the product was made available for sale, relocating the product behind service counters, CCTV cameras monitoring the product at all times and random sampling of infant formula.
Mr Donohue asked customers to check cans of infant formula for signs of tampering, and to keep an eye out for anything suspicious or unusual.
A statement from Foodstuffs, which owns New World, said additional security had been put in place nationwide to ensure the product was protected and delivered to customers securely.
It said all customers would be “subjected to heightened security surveillance”, and there would be higher security in-store.
At Foodstuffs, infant formula purchases have been limited to two tins per customer.
While supermarkets are taking steps to secure and monitor the product, Allied Security, which is contracted by Oceania Dairy and Fonterra to provide security services at their plants at Studholme and Glenavy, is advertising for more security officers.
Any customers with concerns have been advised to contact the MPI on 0800 008-383, Healthline on 0800 611-116 for health advice and Plunket on 0800 933-922 for support about what to feed babies.
Customers who suspect their product has been tampered with are advised to contact police on 0900 723-665, or take the product to their local police station.
By Daniel Birchfield