Ministry of Primary Industries accused of telling fibs on fruit fly gaffe

The Ministry for Primary Industries has been accused of “lying” to the media about a fruit-fly infested shipment of Tongan breadfruit.

Last weekend InvestigateDaily broke the story of a pallet of breadfruit found to contain fruit fly larvae at Auckland Airport.

Official sources told InvestigateDaily the shipment had been earmarked for destruction, but an MPI paperwork mistake meant the cargo was allowed to continue to its destination where it was shipped out to fruit and vege retailers around Auckland.

In response to that story, MPI this week broke its silence, implying that InvestigateDaily was wrong:

Dear Mr Wishart,

“MPI request that you take into account the below facts in response to your article about fruit fly threat (http://www.investigatemagazine.co.nz/Investigate/14263/new-fruit-fly-threat-for-nz/) .

“MPI detected and stopped at the border a consignment of Tongan breadfruit on Friday 27 February 2015 as it did not meet Import Health Standard requirements due to the detection of Pacific fruit fly (Bactrocera xanthodes) viable eggs.

“This consignment was refused biosecurity clearance and an MPI Chief Technical Officer has directed that it be either re-shipped at the importer’s cost or safely destroyed.

“As a precaution, two other consignments of breadfruit, imported at the same time from Tonga, were recalled from the market in New Zealand and inspected for fruit fly life stages. No life stages of the Pacific fruit fly were found in these consignments, but as a precautionary measure they have been secured by MPI and have been safely destroyed.

“MPI cannot find any record of Investigate Daily contacting MPI for comment.”

For the record, InvestigateDaily’s request was placed to the MPI media team on Tuesday 10 March at 15:58 in a call lasting six minutes.

However, when we told our source about the denial, his reaction was “that’s an absolute lie! The cargo went out to stores, they sent people out to get it back but most of the product had been sold to customers who were untraceable.”

The assurance, he says, that the remnants of the breadfruit cargo they managed to recall were clear of fruit fly, is “meaningless”, because a large quantity of the fruit had gone.

In InvestigateDaily’s view the gaffe raises new questions: Why weren’t all three consignments of breadfruit physically checked on entry, when they came from a country known to have fruit fly?

 

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