13 May 2011

100,000 trays of kiwifruit recalled after typhoid scare

10:48 pm on 13 May 2011

More than 100,000 trays of export kiwifruit worth about $800,000 have been withdrawn after a picker was found to have contracted typhoid fever.

The Department of Labour says the man is a worker with the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme and had recently arrived from Samoa.

Bay of Plenty medical officer of health Neil de Wet says the man had been in New Zealand for only nine days before he fell ill and was sent to hospital.

The man will be released on Friday but will be kept isolated and under watch for several weeks at least, Dr de Wet says.

Seven other workers, also believed to be Samoan who had been in close contact with the man have been isolated, but are showing no symptoms of the disease.

Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Mike Chapman says the picker had a mandatory health check and X-ray before he left the Pacific Island.

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri was informed of possible contamination following an investigation by the Public Health Service and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Zespri says it has traced all the fruit picked by the man's gang and will quarantine and destroy it. It says the risk that any fruit has been contaminated is extremely low.

Some 30,000 trays of fruit are en route to foreign markets and will be disposed of when they arrive. Zespri says the trays represent less than 0.1% of exports and expects to export over 100 million trays of kiwifruit this year.

Mayor questions biosecurity controls

The mayor of the country's main kiwifruit growing region is questioning how the worker with typhoid was able to enter New Zealand.

Western Bay of Plenty mayor Ross Paterson says the case shows the risk to the community's health from the 25,000 workers who come into the region each kiwifruit season.

Mr Paterson says there appears to be a hole in the biosecurity system.