Australians warned to cut up strawberries after people report finding needles inside

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Police began looking into the potentially risky berries after a Facebook user on Saturday wrote that their friend took a bite of a strawberry and ate "half a sewing needle", according to the Palm Beach Post.

It's a crime so unusual that any motive seems almost inconceivable.

An Australian state has offered a large reward for information after sewing needles were found in strawberries sold in supermarkets, in what the federal health minister described as a "vicious crime".

Three more punnets were found contaminated with needles on Friday, according to ABC Australia.

At least one person claims to have inadvertently swallowed one.

"Strawberries are a great fruit, and people should continue to buy them, but everyone should simply cut them up".

A fresh report of a contamination in Townsville is being investigated, Queensland police said, following instances elsewhere in the state.

Police asked anyone who finds a needle in their strawberries to take the punnet their local station.

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The Queensland Government has put out a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the culprit behind the contamination of the strawberries. "I am furious about this".

"Whereas we would normally be selling 30 tonnes a day of locally grown strawberries to WA markets, it has dropped to 20 tonnes".

This week, Jamie Michael, head of the Western Australian Strawberry Growers Association, told the Australian broadcaster that the needle incidents have come at peak strawberry-selling season, disrupting the market at a particularly inconvenient time. "If you stop picking them for a few days then they stop producing fruit, so we're trying to weather out this storm and hope that things get better, but to do that it's costing".

Certain brands have been removed from sale.

In a follow-up statement released on Facebook Thursday, the group said the strawberries were seemingly "interfered with between the time they were packed and the time they were purchased". "It is a very, very broad picture and we can't speculate in any way, shape or form", said Terry Lawrence, Queensland acting chief superintendent.

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.

"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 awful act?" she said.

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