Ex-employee suspected after strawberries spiked with needles

Devin Lawrence
September 17, 2018

Foodstuffs NZ is assuring people that the strawberries stocked on New Zealand shelves is not affected by the Queensland strawberry recall.

The farms are not related to the farm packaging strawberries under the Berry Licious and Berry Obsession brands which was hit with a needle crisis earlier in the week.

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 snapped in half, my knee-jerk reaction was to swallow, and I found the other half of the needle in the strawberry", he said.

Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence said people responsible for contaminating the fruit could be charged with maliciously causing grievous bodily harm.

"We want everybody to check their strawberries before consuming them ... just cut them up, have a look", Supt Lawrence said.

Any strawberries bought from 13 September are safe.

"For all other brands, our advice remains that you can continue to eat strawberries, but you should cut them up before eating".

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

"It wasn't five minutes later they rang back and said it was too late, he'd actually bitten into it", she told 9 News.

Queensland Police Service, who have launched an investigation into the potentially hazardous findings, revealed that affected brands include "Berry Obsession" and "Berry Licious", according to an update on the agency's Facebook account.

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"It does appear to be an isolated incident so far.it's the perception that people have that's the concern".

The first reported cases of contaminated strawberries were sold at Woolworths supermarkets in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria.

Police investigations are ongoing.

"I don't know anything, at this stage, I don't know anything, I'm like you guys, I want to find out".

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

The growers association released a statement acknowledging the reports.

A nine-year old boy bit into a contaminated fruit but did not swallow.

"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.

"Woolworths takes food safety very seriously and we are looking into these claims with our supplier", the company wrote.

Consumers across all three states have been urged to chop up or throw out berries purchased in the past week as police seek a culprit for the sabotage.

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