Australians told to chop strawberries as police investigate needles found in fruit

Clay Curtis
September 17, 2018

A minister called it a "vicious crime".

How far has the scare spread?

The association said it could be a disgruntled former farmer who's putting the needles in the strawberries.

One man was taken to hospital after eating a strawberry that held a needle. In another case, a 9-year-old boy was lucky not to be injured, according to his mother.

Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia president Neil Handasyde said growers had received requests from major retailers and insurance companies to scan fruit for needles.

Queensland police are still unsure if the sabotage devastating the nation's strawberry industry is the work of a single person or several people acting independently.

Where are Australian strawberries sold?

Australia's strawberry industry is worth some A$130m ($94m; £70m) a year and there are concerns that such incidents could have a lasting detrimental impact on sales. Around 4% are sold overseas and exports reportedly rose by over a quarter between 2016 and 2017.

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Nervous growers are weighing up their farming futures as the strawberry contamination crisis forces New Zealand's major supermarkets to stop selling the fruit from Australia.

The Department of Health is advising Australians to cut fruit prior to eating, in light of recent events.

"This is a serious issue and it just begs the question, how could any right-minded person want to put a baby or child or anybody's health at risk by doing such a terrible act?" she said.

Australian supermarkets aren't taking any chances and have taken certain strawberry brands off their shelves.

How secure is Australian food production?

"The Department is now working with local government authorities, police and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to investigate these local cases", it said in a statement.

"He could have swallowed it, it could've got stuck, he could have punctured something through his system", she said.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne says he understands why New Zealanders are baulking at Australian strawberries.

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