Australia searches for culprit hiding sewing needles in strawberries

Sunday, 16 Sep, 2018

An Australian state has offered a large reward for information after sewing needles were found in strawberries sold in supermarkets, in what the federal health minister described as a "vicious crime".

He says there is no link between the Donnybrook berry contamination and the Berry Obsession and Berry Licious cases.

Per reports in ABC News, premier premier Annastacia Palaszczuk approved the reward over the weekend, after saying that police are doing everything they can to catch the culprit, who potentilly faces up to ten years behind bars.

"We're not going to stand for it".

Queensland Police are now heading an investigation aimed at tracking down the source of the needles.

One man has been taken to hospital after swallowing fragments and a nine-year-old boy reportedly found a needle while eating a strawberry, but did not swallow it. He is being assessed by medics but his condition is not known.

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A Coles customer found pins sticking from the sabotaged fruit after purchasing the punnet from a supermarket in Engadine in Sydney's south on Friday.

NSW Police said in a statement late Friday that it is unknown if the contamination is related to the original Queensland incident or a copycat as the products have yet to be forensically examined.

"As a precaution, Coles is also withdrawing all brands and sizes of Queensland grown strawberry punnets from sale in Coles supermarkets in all states [except Western Australia], in Coles Express stores and via Coles online".

"As with all farmers who produce food for our nation, strawberry growers strive to ensure the quality, security and freshness of their produce and these spiteful incidents have been extremely disheartening and troubling", the association said.

Dr. Jeannette Young, Queensland's chief health officer, said the Donnybrook brand would be pulled from store shelves.

Contaminated strawberries have also been identified in NSW in Tweed Heads, Taree and Wingham.