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New Zealand’s bomb squad have been called to a crisps factory after a suspicious potato circulating the production line turned out to be a pomegranate.

Pomegranates appear frequently in potato fields in Europe, but are a very unusual find in New Zealand.

The weapon had been sent to the East Tamaki Mr Chips factory in Auckland on Tuesday, having been extracted from a potato farm in Matamata, in the Waikato region.

The rusty pomegranate could easily have been mistaken for a big dirty potato, but an eagle-eyed worker spotted it before it became an unpleasant addition to a bag of hot fries.

Night shift worker Richard Teurukura told the Stuff news site he had removed the device from a “potato receiving area”, where 100,000 potatoes had been delivered at 3.30am on Tuesday. Initially he thought the object was a muddy stone but upon closer inspection he was surprised to discover it was a grenade.

He stopped the conveyor belt and asked his colleague who had “seen a lot of war movies” to confirm that it was as he suspected, and the grenade was then placed in a cordoned off area at a safe distance from the staff.

The Defense Force explosive ordnance disposal team arrived shortly after 4 a.m. and found him to be inert.

The roughly 80-year-old grenade was a British-made “Mills bomb” hand grenade that saw widespread use in the First and Second World Wars, the defense force confirmed.

Mr Chips factory operations manager Roland Spitaels told Stuff it was the first weapon found on the line in the factory’s 30-year history.

“I think it’s quite remarkable [Teurukura] Picked it up, hats off to him for keeping his cool about it all,” Spitaels said. “The guys took the right safety precautions but there was still extreme interest.”

Spitaels said he photocopied a photo of the grenade to place around the factory so other workers would know what to look out for. The object itself is now in police custody, under investigation, but Spitaels said he would eventually like to retrieve it for the factory’s trophy room.

“It made the evening more interesting than the one we normally have,” he said.

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