Published: Mon, September 17, 2018
Finance | By Jaime Brady

Police investigating after needles found in Australian strawberries

Police investigating after needles found in Australian strawberries

"These strawberries are distributed in South Australia by Coles, Woolworths, IGA and Aldi".

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

The woman who found the needles took to Facebook to alert others and urge people to check their strawberries or throw them out.

Hoani Hearne, 21, was rushed to the hospital Sunday with "severe abdominal pains", according to a friend, Joshua Gane, who posted about the incident on Facebook.

Police in Queensland, where the affected strawberries were grown, believe the contamination is deliberate.

"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.

"Yesterday, I said anyone that had bought those products since the start of last week needed to dispose of them", Dr Jeanette Young said on Thursday. He said other strawberries also had needles inside of them.

Several brands of strawberries have been withdrawn.

Det. Supt. Lawrence said officers were now identifying past and present employees of the two farms concerned, which involves more than 100 people, with plans to interview them.

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The initial reports suggested that it was originally only the Berrylicious and Berry Obsession brands from Woolworths which were affected.

The Queensland Police Service said it was investigating the contamination relating to sewing needles inserted in strawberries.

"At this time, the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated the occurrence, wherein sewing needles were found in a number of strawberries in Queensland and Victoria", the statement reads.

Victoria Police said what appeared to be sewing needles were located in two punnets in separate regional Victorian towns.

Lawrence also encouraged people to check strawberries before they are consumed.

Police have released a photo in relation to the suspected copycat incident and continue to investigate it.

But Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said just be ultra-cautious before eating them, no matter where you buy them from.

Chief Superintendent Lawrence said those responsible for contaminating the fruit could be charged with maliciously causing grievous bodily harm, an offence which carries up to 10 years' imprisonment if convicted.

" Coles takes the safety of the food we sell seriously and we are working with our suppliers, police and state health regulators to investigate", a spokesperson said in a statement.The safety of our customers is our priority and anyone concerned about their health should seek medical advice.

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