12 Dec 2018

Woman arrested after false complaint of needle in strawberry

4:55 pm on 12 December 2018

A woman has been charged for falsely reporting that a needle was found in a strawberry in Timaru.

Fresh strawberry at market in plastic boxes.

Fresh strawberry at market in plastic boxes. Photo: 123rf.com

Police said they were told on Monday afternoon that a punnet of strawberries containing the needle had been bought from a supermarket in Timaru.

A 28-year-old woman has now been charged with making a false complaint and will appear in the Timaru District Court in January.

"It's disappointing that we've had to take this action, but this demonstrates that police and MPI's New Zealand Food Safety take these matters seriously," Detective Inspector Corrie Parnell said.

"It also shows that, where appropriate, anyone making false reports in matters like this will be held to account."

The Ministry for Primary Industries said earlier today it was aware of the report that a needle had been found in a punnet of strawberries purchased from PAKnSAVE Timaru.

As a precaution strawberries were removed from the supermarket's shelves.

In a statement, Foodstuffs said malicious events such as this had serious consequences for its customers, suppliers and stores.

Police have been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries on several reported incidents of needles found in strawberries.

Last week, police received another report of a needle found in a punnet of strawberries purchased at a Tauranga store.

Last month, FreshChoice Geraldine in the South Island confirmed that a strawberry punnet with a needle in it was purchased from its store.

Countdown also said last month it notified the police and the ministry after a customer found a needle in a capsicum at a Tauranga store.

The cases follow a contamination crisis in Australia where its strawberry industry was brought to its knees after several punnets of strawberries were found contaminated with sewing needles.

The scare began in south-east Queensland in September with more than 100 incidents of needles reported around Australia, as well as an isolated case in New Zealand.

As police launched their investigation into strawberry producer supply chains, consumers were urged to cut up their strawberries before eating them.

- with additional reporting by ABC

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