Australia

Police investigating if 'disgruntled worker' planted needles in strawberries

A Queensland man found this needle in his strawberry. Source: Facebook

Police are investigating whether a disgruntled worker out for revenge put sewing needles in strawberries sold at Woolworths supermarkets.

Police hunting for the culprit who put sewing needles in strawberries  are investigating whether a disgruntled worker could be to blame.

Sewing needles have been found hidden inside strawberries sold at Woolworths, sparking a recall of two brands that had been sold in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

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Police investigating three cases of sewing needles embedded in strawberries
Police investigating three cases of sewing needles embedded in strawberries

Queensland mother Angela Stevenson says her son, 9, ended up with a needle in his mouth after taking strawberries to school. She also almost fed a potentially contaminated berry to her 12-month-old baby.

And a Queensland man ended up at a hospital emergency department after swallowing part of a needle and developing severe abdominal pain.

A man posted a picture of the needle he found in a strawberry punnet.
A man posted a picture of the needle he found in a strawberry punnet.
Facebook

Ms Stevenson, from Gladstone, was chopping up fruit for her baby on Tuesday when she found a needle embedded in a berry. Realising her son had strawberries in his lunch box she immediately called his school.

"I 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," she told ABC radio.

"Luckily he pulled it back out of his mouth and told the teacher."

Ms Stevenson's thankful she didn't hand her baby a whole strawberry, as she sometimes does.

"It's horrible. It's sick," she said, adding she bought the berries from a Woolworths store in the Gladstone suburb of Kirkwood.

 

It's the fourth contaminated punnet found so far. Another was found in Queensland and two in Victoria.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association has said early reports indicate a disgruntled farm worker may be responsible for the alarming act.

It says the two brands affected, Berry Obsession and Berrylicious, had come from the same farm.

Police will talk to the association about its suspicions a worker could be to blame.

"We will talk with them to see if they have any information to assist us," Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence has told Nine Network.

  

Health authorities are telling people to ditch any affected berries bought between September 5-8, or cut them open to make sure they are safe to eat.

Police are checking every step of the production chain.

Jennifer Rowling from Queensland Strawberry Growers Association says growers are devastated.

"We just really want to reinforce that it was one farm that's been affected - the two labels within the one farm, and all those strawberries have been pulled off the shelves," she has told ABC radio.

"We're hoping people can see this for what it is, and that is an isolated incident.

"(It is) suspected that someone like a disgruntled employee may have done something."

Customers are being reassured berries purchased from Thursday are safe.

The contaminated punnets were purchased in Kirkwood in Gladstone, at the Strathpine Centre north of Brisbane, at Yarram in Victoria's Gippsland region, and at Sebastopol, a southern suburb of Ballarat, also in Victoria.

Woolworths has encouraged its customers to return suspect products for a full refund.

A Queensland man found this needle in his strawberry.
A Queensland man found this needle in his strawberry.
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