Nova Scotia

Potatoes found with nails at 2 Atlantic Canada stores

Police have reported two more cases of potatoes with metal objects in them, sparking worries among farmers that the potential tampering cases could hurt sales of the crop.

Scare leads some farmers to buy metal detectors to protect crop

Kyle Murray checks on his potatoes. (CBC)

Police in Atlantic Canada have reported two more cases of potatoes with metal objects in them, sparking worries among farmers that the potential tampering cases could hurt sales of the crop.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary received two complaints in the Northeast Avalon Region. In one case, a needle was found in a potato, and the other person found a needle in the potato bag.

The potatoes came from different stores, but both originated in the Maritimes, police said. They didn't say what brand they were. 

In Nova Scotia, police heard from a person who found a nail in a bag of Griffin Russet potatoes from the Berwick Foodland. The potatoes were bought on May 27.

Bad for business

P.E.I. has also had several such findings lately, and farmers there worry it'll hurt business.

Grower Kyle Murray said it's hard on everyone.

"It's extremely frustrating for all of us. I hear rumours that people aren't going to buy unless you have a metal detector," he said.

Some farmers are indeed investing in screening devices aimed at detecting foreign objects in potatoes before they're packed and shipped.

Gary Linkletter was the first to do it after tampered potatoes found last fall were tracked back to his farm.

The Prince Edward Island Potato Board has encouraged others to follow suit.

"Consumer safety. Really, that's what it boils down to. We have a reputation, and we want to ensure our product is safe," said the board's Greg Donald.

But Murray and others worry that safety will come at a big cost. The potato board says screening equipment can be very expensive.

"It's a big investment to put that metal detecting equipment in just for a small amount of potatoes. The equipment has to be calibrated daily, it all has to be recorded," Murray said.

More than a dozen cases

Murray expects screening devices will become the norm on P.E.I.

"It's just something that evolves from one fellow being able to compete with the next fellow. You have to stay with it. If you don't stay with it, you're going to lose the market," he said.

The list of food tampering incidents reported over the past month includes:

  • May 18 (Montague, P.E.I.): Metal object found in a potato bought at Superstore.
  • May 18 (Tabusintac, N.B.): Nail found in a potato bought at a Co-op.
  • May 19 (Antigonish, N.S.): Nail found in a potato bought at Superstore.
  • May 19 (Nigadoo, N.B.): Nail found in a potato bought at Inter Marché.
  • May 20 (Barrington Passage, N.S.): Nail found in a potato bought at No Frills.
  • May 21 (Tabusintac, N.B.): Nail found in a potato bought at a Co-op.
  • May 23 (Brigus, N.L.): Nail found in a potato bought at Dominion.
  • May 23 (Halifax): Nail found in a potato by employee at Quinpool Superstore.
  • May 26 (Yarmouth, N.S.): Nail found in a potato bought at Giant Tiger.
  • May 27 (Corner Brook, N.L.): Sewing needle found in a potato bought at Dominion.
  • May 28 (Halifax): Nail found in a potato bought at Giant Tiger.
  • May 28 (Dartmouth, N.S.): Razor blade found in a carton of eggs bought at Alderney Market.
  • May 30 (Bridgewater, N.S.) Needle found in potato from a bag purchased at Bridgewater Superstore.
  • May 31 (Woodville, N.S.) Nail found in potato salad made by Kings Processing in Middleton.

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