Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Strawberry crisis deepens: Six brands recalled after more needles found

The needle found in one strawberry last weekend The needle found in one strawberry last weekend
Kelvin Reese | 17 September, 2018, 06:32

She referred to the problem as "an isolated incident" and "sabotage".

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

"Please be careful and crush them up before eating or just chuck them out", she said in the Facebook post.

Then she instantly realised that she had sent strawberries from the same punnet to school in her older son's packed lunch.

Coles said they had been in contact with Ms Faugeras.

He says there is no link between the three most recent cases and the Wamuran farm that sparked an initial health warning after supplying contaminated berries to Queensland, NSW and Victoria under the brand names Berry Obsession and Berry Licious.

It is understood the brands are sold in stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

"Police have liaised with retailers to ensure that all stock is removed from sale", police said. He said other strawberries also had needles inside of them.

It's not known if all the finds are from the original Queensland incident, because not all of them have been forensically examined.

Brisbane man Haoni Hearne, 21, said he swallowed part of a needle inside a strawberry on Sunday before being hospitalised.

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The contaminated berries are limited to two brands: Berry Obsession and Berry Licious.

A mother of three in Gladstone also found two needles in a punnet while cutting up the fruit.

The incident follows an earlier plea from strawberry farmers for consumers to buy more strawberries as the market suffered a glut of the fresh fruit, dropping prices to A$1 (NZ$1.50) or less. It was treated as a copycat incident.

"People are contacting us out of concern and saying: 'This is what I've got, what do you think?'", he said.

Police believe they have contained the threat, which was first reported over the weekend.

Detective Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence told media that while the Strawberry Growers Association said they believed that disgruntled ex-employee may be responsible for the needles, police are "not agreeing with that at all at this point in time".

After the Facebook post, the police launched an investigation on September 9.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association suspects a former staff member is behind the contamination.

"We could be finished by the weekend", he said. "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 completion of the production line and going even further through to distribution and going on to the shelves".

Angela Stevenson frantically rang the school and was told that her son had already bit into the fruit and found a needle.

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