Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Disgruntled ex-employee blamed for sewing needles found in strawberries

Supplied  Qld Police The recalled strawberry brands Supplied Qld Police The recalled strawberry brands
Ginger Lawrence | 16 September, 2018, 15:10

Consumers in Queensland have been told to return or discard fruit due to the harmful contamination after a customer was rushed to a hospital after swallowing part of a needle in a strawberry.

When Van Dorp bit through the strawberry, he found that he had swallowed half a sewing needle.

But Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said just be ultra-cautious before eating them, no matter where you buy them from.

"As the products have yet to be forensically examined, it is unknown if the contamination is related to the original Queensland incident or a copycat".

Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence says its a complex operation, because the industry provides more than 250,000 punnets of strawberries in Queensland alone in a five-day period.

"We are working closely with our local and interstate counterparts as the investigation continues and are committed to keeping the public informed as this progresses".

The needle was found in a strawberry punnet purchased at Coles Gatton today.

"He didn't get hurt or anything - didn't get pricked", she said.

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association issued a statement saying they "have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated the occurrence", but Det.

"We're fairly confident if people do come forward with a needle in a strawberry, particularly with the packaging, that will provide us with some information", he said.

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"Yesterday, I said anyone that had bought those products since the start of last week needed to dispose of them", Dr Jeanette Young said on Thursday.

Already struggling with low prices, Queensland strawberry growers are imploring customers to stick by their product after sewing needles were discovered in retail stocks of the fruit.

So far, three incidents have been reported to the police, including one in Queensland and two in Victoria. "It makes it hard because you might need to dispose of them earlier, but just cut them up for safety's sake".

"I was just cutting up some fruit in the morning for my 12-month-old and hit something hard and pulled it back and there was a needle embedded in it", Stevenson told the ABC.

"Police will eventually come and collect those strawberries and the potential evidence from you".

Those strawberries sold after Thursday are said to have been from a later shipment and are safe from the threat.

He repeated health department advice for people to ditch any affected berries they have bought between September 5 and 8, or cut them open to make sure they are safe to eat.

"We have withdrawn Berry Obsession and Berry Licious branded strawberries from sale while this incident is being investigated with our suppliers".

It comes after Queensland Health advised for anyone concerned they may have consumed the contaminated strawberries to contact 13 43 25 84 or speak to their GP immediately.