Strawberry tampering: Copycat case prompts warning from authorities to cut up fruit
Photo: Queensland Health said one person was assessed after consuming the strawberries. (Facebook: Joshua Gane)
Photo: A needle sticking out of a strawberry purchased by Ms Stevenson in Gladstone. (Facebook: Angela Stevenson)
Police and health authorities are warning families to cut up their fruit, after a copycat case in Gatton, west of Brisbane, where a rod was placed inside a punnet of strawberries at a Coles supermarket.
Queensland Police are investigating the entire supply chain of Berry Licious and Berry Obsession strawberries after the fourth confirmed case of needles were found embedded in strawberries in Central Queensland.
Authorities have warned consumers to dispose or return punnets from the two brands, which were sold in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Detective Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence said given the copycat incident it was important consumers checked their strawberries.
"Just cut them up, have a look, it's not going to destroy it. It makes it difficult because you might need to dispose of them earlier, but just cut them up for safety's sake," he said.
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said her advice was to be ultra-cautious.
"It's quite safe to buy them, but just cut them up and check there isn't anything in there that shouldn't be," she said
The contaminated brands have come from one supplier in south-east Queensland, with two farms part of the investigation.
Detective Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence said while the Strawberry Growers Association suspected a disgruntled ex-employee was behind the tampering police "we're not agreeing with that at all at this point in time".
"Our investigation is still open, we're not going to get into speculation," 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 end of the production line, including even further through to distribution and going onto the shelves."
He said police were interviewing current and former staff at the two affected farms, which could be more than 100 people.
9yo boy bit into strawberry with needle
A Gladstone mother said her nine-year-old son was lucky not to be injured after biting into a strawberry embedded with a needle, earlier this week.
Angela Stevenson purchased a Strawberry Obsession punnet from Woolworths in Kirkwood in Gladstone on Tuesday and found a needle when preparing the fruit for her youngest child.
"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," Ms Stevenson said.
"I then realised that my nine-year-old son had taken some strawberries to school, so I rang the school and said 'I need you to stop him from eating the strawberries'.
"It wasn't five minutes later they rang back and said it was too late, he'd actually bitten into it.
"Luckily he'd pulled it back out of his mouth and told the teacher there was a needle in his strawberry."
She said it was lucky no-one was injured.
"I'm thankful I didn't just pull the head off and give it to my 12-month-old whole — sometimes I do that," she said.
"Hopefully they find who did it — it's horrible, it's sick.
"Strawberries are something I don't eat myself but I feed my kids, so it's pretty horrible that someone would do something like that."
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