Australia strawberry needles scare widens as federal probe is launched

Australians warned to cut up strawberries after people report finding needles inside

Warning over needles in strawberries

Queensland, a major strawberry producer, is offering A$100,000 (£54,768) as a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

Australian authorities are warning its citizens against eating certain brands of strawberries after some have been found to contain hidden sewing needles inside.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the reward on the weekend, saying whoever is responsible is putting the state's $160 million strawberry industry at risk.

He said that while police have primary responsibility, the federal agency is investigating "whether there are supply chain weaknesses".

It comes as the head of the industry peak body warns about a dozen Queensland strawberry growers are likely to go under this year and more could follow if the fallout from the needle crisis spreads.

At least one major grocer has removed from its shelves brands known to have been affected.

The scare has led strawberry prices to plummet, resulting in fears for the industry.

The report came after a seven-year-old girl in South Australia state found a needle in a Western Australia-grown strawberry on Saturday.

"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.

More news: Apple's iOS12 Releases Today: What You Need To Know

A man in the town of York reported to police that he found a needle in a sink after washing strawberries.

Foodstuffs and Countdown, food distributors in New Zealand, have suspended selling Australian strawberries.

Bullsbrook strawberry grower Jamie Michael said he had to dump about 30 per cent of his fruit last week because he had no orders from buyers interstate or locally.

Amid the contamination, the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association on Wednesday said they suspected that the culprit was possibly a "disgruntled" former employee.

Health officials have advised people to cut strawberries up before eating them.

Three brands-Donnybrook Berries, Berry Licious, and Berry Obsession-have been taken off the shelves completely.

"We believe it is not happening at the farm level now, for it to be so widespread, across so many sites", he said. However, police said that it was too early to speculate.

The small needles have been found totally concealed inside the strawberries, making them very hard to find.

Latest News