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Strawberry sabotage: WA not affected by needle contamination

17 September 2018

Queensland Health issued advice applicable to all strawberries, saying the fruit is safe to purchase but until advised, consumers should cut them up before consumption.

We are working closely with authorities as they investigate this matter.

Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence said on September 12 that the police were in contact with the farm operators and Woolworths representatives, and that they believed that the offender contaminated the stock intentionally.

"Police have spoken to the person who operates the farm and they are assisting us with our inquiries", he said.

NSW Police Force has received reports of strawberries contaminated with sewing needles and pins purchased at supermarkets at Tweed Heads, Taree, and Wingham.

She urged anyone uncertain about the safety of their fruit to cut the strawberries in half before eating them.

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"They are also contacting the supplier, the police and health and safety", Gane stated.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers' Association says a disgruntled farm worker may be responsible, as the two brands affected, Berry Obsession and Berrylicious, came from the same farm.

The two affected brands of fresh strawberry were also distributed in New South Wales. "The contamination relates to what appears to be needles inserted in strawberries".

It comes after a fourth contaminated punnet was bought at a store in Central Queensland and there was a potential copycat incident at a Coles west of Brisbane.

One man was taken to hospital after eating a strawberry with a needle inside.

The contaminated berries are limited to two brands: Berry Obsession and Berry Licious.

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"I don't know, because the problem is there's so many people handling the fruit all the time, and packing, so I can not say where it happened", he told a Channel 9 reporter.

These brands are believed to be sold in stores in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. It was treated as a copycat incident.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young has requested retailers withdraw all Donnybrook strawberries through a trade level recall.

"So some of those reports coming in are not something that we would pursue. because we are so early in the stage of each of these reports coming through and how large it is for us to follow each one of them down".

Police were investigating the possibility of an extortion attempt or someone carrying out a vendetta against the supermarket giant.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association suspects a former staff member is behind the contamination. Supt. Lawrence said "we're not agreeing with that at this particular point of time".

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"We're keeping a very open mind as to where this may have occurred somewhere between the actual growing of the strawberry through to the end of the production line, including even further through to distribution and going onto the shelves", he said.

Strawberry sabotage: WA not affected by needle contamination