Australian state offers US$70000 reward as strawberries sabotaged with needles

Daniel Fowler
September 15, 2018

Authorities in Australia on Thursday said they had four confirmed incidents of "contaminated strawberries" after an individual reportedly discovered a needle inside a berry after taking a bite.

Contaminated punnets have been reported in supermarkets in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

ABC News reported on Saturday that wholesale prices have halved to 50 Australian cents per punnet below the cost of production in Western Australia, where strawberries crops are now peaking, with growers forced to dump tonnes of the fruit.

Punnets supplied by three brands have been recalled from supermarket shelves although New South Wales Police said they believed a further three brands may be affected.

"As the products have yet to be forensically examined, it is unknown if the contamination is related to the original Queensland incident or a copycat", NSW police said in a statement late Friday.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, urged the community to come together to find the person responsible behind the "callous act".

The concerned consumer handed in the infected product to their local police station after they found the three sharp objects inside the berry.

Officials said it is still safe to buy strawberries but consumers should cut them up before eating them.

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Young advised residents that all strawberries, regardless of brand, should be cut before they're eaten.

"This is putting families' lives at risk and it's also putting the strawberry industry at risk", she said.

A police spokesman said that in this instance, there were no injuries as a result of the contamination.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said it appears the punnets of strawberries were interfered with between the time they were packed and the time they were purchased.

"We've got to look at this as a whole, it's a very, very broad picture and we can't speculate in any way, shape or form", Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence told reporters on Friday.

The customer handed the punnet in to Sutherland Area Police Command, where it will undergo forensic testing.

He said retailers had heavily discounted prices, but that was not helping move enough stock.

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