Daily Mail retracts Iceland boss claims of HIV needle attacks in stores

The executive chairman of Iceland Foods told the Daily Mail that staff had been infected with HIV by shoplifters.

The boss of British supermarket chain Iceland has retracted his claims published in the Daily Mail, regarding HIV needle attacks by shoplifters, but is yet to apologise. 

On 15 September, the Mail ran a story focused on the so-called shoplifting crisis, which featured an interview with Richard Walker, the executive chairman of Iceland Foods. 

In the piece, Walker claimed three members of staff are now living with HIV after being attacked by shoplifters armed with hypodermic needles.

National AIDS Trust had previously issued a statement to say transmitting HIV this way is “almost impossible” and said the report could fuel “misinformation and HIV stigma”.

HIV is a virus that damages the cells in the immune system and weakens people’s ability to fight usual infections and diseases. Although there is no cure, there is effective drug treatment that enables many to live a long and healthy life. 

The story has now been amended with a disclaimer that reads: “Since this article was first published, Iceland have clarified that they provided information to MailOnline in error, regarding staff being infected with HIV, and the article has been revised accordingly.”

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Despite this, Walker is yet to issue an apology, with the Terrance Higgins Trust, calling out the falsehoods as a way to “weaponise HIV”. 

On Thursday (21 September), the charity, which campaigns about and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, to share its disappointment at the lack of an apology. 

“We are unaware of any cases of HIV being contracted from a needle attack, let alone three at one supermarket chain.

“The claim is highly damaging in that it perpetuates HIV-related stigma and entirely misrepresents the transmission risk of needle-stick injury or attack,” the post added. 

“We are unaware of any cases of HIV having ever been transmitted in this way,” said National AIDS Trust. “Such transmission is almost impossible.

“The HIV virus is fragile and cannot survive outside a body for a long time.”

The charity consulted with the UK Health Security Agency – the government body responsible for protecting the public from health threats – regarding the article. 

The agency said an attack as described “would be a highly unlikely route of transmission because the vast majority of people living with HIV are on treatment and therefore have an undetectable level of virus and no transmission risk”.