11 Nov 2018

Arrest in relation to strawberry contamination scare

8:34 pm on 11 November 2018

A 50-year-old woman has been arrested over the strawberry contamination scare that began in south-east Queensland in September.

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More than 100 incidents of allegedly contaminated fruit were reported in Australia in September. Photo: Facebook / Angela Stevenson

She is expected to be charged this evening and will appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court tomorrow.

Queensland Police described the national investigation into the contamination, which it led, as "complex" and "extensive".

Australia's strawberry industry was brought to its knees after several punnets of strawberries were found contaminated with sewing needles.

Queensland authorities notified the public of the safety risk on 12 September, three days after a Brisbane man Hoani Hearne ate half a needle from a punnet of Berry Obsession strawberries and was admitted to hospital with abdominal pain.

Angela Stevenson from the central Queensland town of Gladstone also found a needle inside fruit in a Berry Obsession punnet on 11 September, but not before her nine-year-old son bit into a contaminated strawberry that he had taken to school.

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

Police and Queensland Health also warned consumers to dispose or return punnets of two brands of strawberries - Berry Licious and Berry Obsession - which were sold in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

At the time Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said the contaminated brands came from a farm in south-east Queensland, and were sold to Woolworths, but could also have been distributed to other stores.

However, the alleged contamination spread beyond the two brands in what authorities believed could be copycat crimes or unsubstantiated claims.

More than 100 incidents of needles were reported around Australia in September, as well as an isolated case in New Zealand.

Sharp objects were discovered in fruit as recently as Friday, in the Adelaide suburb of Salisbury and in South Australia's Clare Valley.

Growers were forced to dump truckloads of stock amid the crisis, which sparked the social media campaign #SmashaStrawb to support farmers.


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