Strawberry sabotage widens as more needles found

NSW mother Chantal Faugeras posted these pictures of strawberries with needles in them to...
NSW mother Chantal Faugeras posted these pictures of strawberries with needles in them to Facebook, saying she purchased them at the local supermarket. Photo via Facebook
Six brands of strawberries are believed to have been targeted in a needle sabotage spanning four Australian states, with police unsure if it is the same ploy or a copycat.

NSW Police are warning the contamination may have spread beyond the Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook brands confirmed by Queensland Police.
They suspect the Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis labels have also had sewing needles inserted in them.

Donnybrook supplies Coles and Woolworths stores across Australia.

These brands are believed to be sold in stores in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.

It comes after NSW mother Chantal Faugeras posted to Facebook images of strawberries she said were bought from a Coles supermarket on the NSW Mid North Coast on Tuesday.

In the post, Ms Faugeras said her 10-year-old discovered a pin embedded in a strawberry while eating a punnet they had bought from the Coles store at Wingham.

"We found 3 pins inside 3 strawberries," Ms Faugeras wrote. "Please be careful and crush them up before eating or just chuck them out."

She said the punnets were both Delightful Strawberries-branded products.

Coles said they had been in contact with Ms Faugeras.

"Coles takes the safety of the food we sell seriously and we are working with our suppliers, police and state health regulators to investigate," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"The safety of our customers is our priority and anyone concerned about their health should seek medical advice."

It is the first time needles have been discovered in strawberries in NSW after four contaminated punnets were discovered in Queensland and Victoria in recent days.
NSW Police have so far received reports of contaminated strawberries bought from supermarkets in Tweed Heads, Taree and Wingham.

"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," NSW Police said in a statement late Friday.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said it appears the punnets of strawberries were interfered with between the time they were packed and the time they were purchased.

"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 wrote in a statement.

"Regretfully, preventing random acts of extremism, sabotage and simple maliciousness from people with a grudge appears to be an increasing challenge across our society."

The association has previously said it believes a disgruntled former farm worker may be responsible, but police say they are investigating all aspects of the strawberry transit process.

Until the berries have been forensically examined, it is unclear if the NSW discoveries are related to the earlier incidents or is the work of a potential copycat, NSW Police said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Queensland police announced they were investigating a suspected copycat incident after a metal rod was discovered on top of strawberries inside a plastic punnet at a Coles store in Gatton.

"We've got to look at this as a whole, it's a very, very broad picture and we can't speculate in any way, shape or form," Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence said.

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.

Consumers have been urged to chop up or throw out berries purchased in the past week as police seek a culprit.

NSW Police are also urging anyone who has purchased contaminated product to take the punnet to their local police station immediately for triage and forensic examination. They are working with retailers to remove all stock from the affected date are removed from sale.


Someone trying to make a point ?