Needles in strawberry contamination: More brands confirmed to be affected

By @chelean on
Freshly picked Albion strawberries are shown for sale at the roadside vegetable stand at Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California May 15, 2012.
Freshly picked Albion strawberries are shown for sale at the roadside vegetable stand at Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California May 15, 2012. Reuters/Mike Blake

Strawberry contamination has expanded to six brands. There were more cases of needles and pins found in strawberries that have been confirmed in four states, with the contamination spreading to Victoria, Queensland, NSW, ACT and SA.

On Wednesday, the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said a disgruntled former employee could be the one who inserted needles in a number of strawberries sold in Victoria, Queensland and NSW. There had been two affected brands that were known then: Berry Licious and Berry Obsessions, which were sold in Woolworths. The brands have since been recalled.

However, there are four more brands that are now believed to be contaminated with sewing needles and pins as well. The Doonybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis are believed to be sold in NSW, VIC and the ACT.

The NSW Police Force has received reports of contaminated strawberries purchased at supermarkets at Tweed Heads, Taree and Wingham. It is not yet clear if the contamination is related to the original incident in Queensland or a copycat incident.

Following the previous contamination report, there had been a reported incident of a rod inserted inside a punnet of strawberries at a Coles supermarket in QLD. This has been determined just a copycat incident. Nevertheless, authorities advise consumers to cut up their strawberries before eating them to find out if there are needles inserted in them. Those who bought affected punnets of strawberries may bring them to police for forensic examination.

Strawberry victims

There have been seven confirmed cases of contamination so far. There were five incidents —Strathpine, Everton Park, Redbank Plains and Gladstone — in Queensland, one of which was a copycat incident in Gatton. In Victoria, there were two confirmed cases but their locations are unknown.

One incident includes a 9-year-old boy in Gladstone, who bit into a strawberry with a needle, according to his mother. Angela Stevenson said they purchased Strawberry Obsession from Woolworths in Kirkwood when they found a needle inserted in one of the fruits. When she remembered that her son took some strawberries with him to school, she rang up his son’s school in a bid to warn him about the needle. The school rang back and told her that his son had actually bitten into one. It was fortunate that he was able to pull it out of him mouth, though, she told the ABC.

Hoani Hearne of Burpengary north of Brisbane wasn’t so lucky. He was the first person hospitalised after eating a contaminated strawberry. He said he ended up suffering from severe abdominal pains.

Chantal Faugeras said she bought punnets of strawberries from a Coles supermarket in NSW on Tuesday. On a Facebook post, she wrote that her 10-year-old discovered a pin inserted in one strawberry while they were eating the strawberries.

“We found three pins inside three strawberries,” she wrote. “Please be careful and crush them up before eating or just chuck them out.” The brand that she bought were Delightful Strawberries. Coles has since been in contact with the mother.

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