'Rampant' rats keep supermarket closed

A rat-plagued supermarket will remain closed today, with further sightings of rodents over the weekend.

The Countdown Dunedin South store at 323 Andersons Bay Rd has been closed since February 9 amid reports of rats running rampant at the supermarket and a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) investigation.

Yesterday, the MPI and owner of Woolworths New Zealand confirmed there had been a rat sighting over the weekend, meaning the earliest the store could open would be tomorrow.

There were no rat captures over the weekend, but there have been at least 20 rats caught in the store since the investigation began.

The last rat capture was Thursday.

An MPI spokesman said it was working closely with Woolworths New Zealand to ensure best practice was met.

On Friday, the supermarket giant issued a statement apologising for the distress the rat situation had caused customers.

"Supported by industry leaders in pest management, Rentokil, as well as NZ Food Safety, we have pest management plans in place in every one of our 194 stores across the country.

"However, recent events have highlighted that there are improvements we can make to ensure our processes and procedures are followed.

"What we have seen play out in the last couple of weeks is not acceptable to us or to our customers."

It came after weeks of negative coverage about the rat issue.

A staff member approached the Otago Daily Times last month with accounts of a rat-infested store.

Concerns were raised store management was not taking the issue seriously at the time.

Then a photo, taken in November last year, was supplied to the ODT, which Woolworths confirmed showed a rat in its Countdown Dunedin South deli section.

After rat captures were reported and the store was closed for increased pest control efforts, several more photos emerged.

In one photo a rat appears to be trapped in an upturned shopping basket.

In another, rat droppings surround a mixing bowl in what appears to be the supermarket’s bakery.