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Imported strawberry growing kits pose biosecurity risk

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is seeking public help for a product recall of a strawberry seed growing kit.

"Buzzy" Strawberry Mini Grow Kits which comprise small packages of strawberry seeds, a clay pot and compressed potting mix were imported by Tui Products Ltd and sold through The Warehouse stores nationwide between 1 September and 12 November 2011.

MAF Response Manager Glen Neal says the seeds in the kits were imported and mistakenly released for sale when they should have been quarantined and tested for a range of plant viruses.

"If these seeds are planted and get out into the wider environment, they have the potential to introduce viral diseases to several horticultural crops including strawberries," he says.

"While we think the risk of the seeds in the kits being infected and then viruses subsequently being transmitted from adult plants to commercial horticultural operations is very low, we are keen to get back or account for as many kits as possible to further minimise any risk.

"The seeds and any resulting plants or fruit do not pose any human health risk. The concern is about plant health," Mr Neal says.

Nearly 7,000 kits were purchased by The Warehouse from the importer Tui Products Ltd. Of those, 1362 kits have been sold and 5,540 have been recovered and will be destroyed.

"We strongly encourage people who have bought these Buzzy kits to return them to any The Warehouse store nationwide. The company has offered to take back any unplanted seed kits and refund the full purchase price of $3.99 each," Neal says.

MAF is not encouraging the return of actual plants removed from their packaging to The Warehouse.