To date, 10 spiders have been found in grapes at several locations around the country.
New Zealand biosecurity officials are telling supermarkets to clear Mexican grapes from their fruit and vegetable sections after venomous spiders were discovered in some consignments.
Two of the black widow spiders were found in packets from New World in Wairoa – one by a teacher who was washing the grapes for a morning tea platter to give to children at an education centre on Friday, the Wairoa Star reported yesterday. NZ First primary industries spokesman Richard Prosser says the Auditor-General should be called in to investigate the department, and wants an end to the “honesty box biosecurity”. “In the case of Mexico, grapes are visually inspected and if spiders or other pests are identified, there is a requirement for fumigation”. A spokesperson says the spiders aren’t generally considered as being a serious danger to humans, although the effects could be felt more heavily for the very young or those with weakened immune systems.
Foodstuffs was alerted on Friday to the potential discovery of black widow spiders in Mexican Desert Pride Red and Black grapes, which has since been confirmed. MPI’s surveillance manager Brendan Gould said it is likely that some grapes from the affected shipments will have already been sold, with the ministry advising consumers to be on the lookout. As a further precaution, on MPI’s instructions, today we removed Mexican grapes from sale from our North Island stores.
“There are strict controls in place for the importation of grapes from Mexico (and other countries)”.
MPI says they could be risky to people who come into contact with them but did not pose a threat to New Zealand’s horticultural industry. If they do find one, the grapes and spider should be bagged and sealed and MPI should be contacted.
“We recommend that if people have recently bought imported table grapes, they should carefully check them for the presence of any insects”.
All grapes imported from Mexico have been pulled from sale.
While not aggressive, the spider will bite instinctively when touched or pressed.