The Meth Epidemic and Food Safety March 2022

Published on:
March 7, 2022
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Two empty plastic bags with remnants of powder.

Since 2009 NZ Detector Dogs have been screening workplaces, educational facilities and businesses of every description with our team of highly trained drug detector dogs. Our clients vary from apartments to warehousing, with a multitude of clients in Primary Industries such as orchards, pack houses, cool stores and a wide range of food processing, packing & manufacturing plants. Our work is varied, interesting and covers the whole of NZ.

While the need to keep illegal drugs out of the worksite because of the danger associated with the use of drugs and obligations under Health & Safety legislation seems obvious, one of the lesser known- but equally important requirements is in relation to food safety and the Food Act.

In 2021 the greatest number of urgent requests for our services came from clients in the food sector. The most common problem – drugs were found dropped in the worksite or production areas and posed a threat to the safety of the products during the manufacturing or packing process.

The worst example – a 10 gram bag of methamphetamine dropped in the processing area of export food processing plant. Similar occurrences have happened in fruit pack houses, dairy production & food manufacturing plants. These incidents have the potential to create an economic disaster for the companies, their clients and in the bigger picture for NZ.

While dropping drugs in an area where food hygiene is paramount may seem a random and uncommon occurrence, the number of urgent callouts from clients would suggest it is far more common and widespread than you would think. The reason lies in the habits and nature of drug use – in particular methamphetamine or ‘P’. P is carried close to the user, somewhere safe, quick to access, easily concealed and can’t be stolen. P is usually concealed in underclothing – and is the drug most commonly found dropped in a workplace.

Despite workers being provided with hygienic clothing for the processing areas or the appropriate PPE for food safety – these measures are not adequate enough to mitigate the risk of drugs being carried in underclothing as many of our clients have discovered.

The potential harm that even a point bag (.1g) of pure methamphetamine coming in contact with export food goods could have posed for our client, their industry and the NZ Export industry would have been incalculable.

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