In September 2018, strawberries were recalled from major Australian retailers following the discovery of needles inserted into the fruit. Copycat cases were reported throughout Australia (in apples and pears, too) and strawberry farmers in particular were left devastated as piles of crops rotted, unsold.
Now, two new cases have appeared in Melbourne. According to Victoria Police, the first needle was discovered in a strawberry bought from a Fairfield store on August 25 and reported to police on September 10. A second needle was discovered in a strawberry bought from a Coles supermarket in Eltham on September 22 and reported to police on September 23.
“Coles takes the safety of the food we sell seriously, and we have spoken to the customer to follow up their complaint,” said a Coles spokesperson in a statement today. “We have worked with our strawberry suppliers to implement additional control measures to ensure strawberries are inspected before they are sent to supermarkets. We have notified the police and will follow up with our supplier to investigate the matter.”
The reports are being investigated by Banyule Criminal Investigation Unit detectives. Victoria Police is advising people to take care when consuming fruit.
“The community is reminded that anyone found to be contaminating food products can be charged with a serious indictable offence with penalties including up to 10 years in jail,” said Victoria Police in a statement provided to Broadsheet. According to the Age, more than 10 cases of needles or pins in strawberries were reported last year.
The first reports of contaminated strawberries (sold at Woolworths supermarkets) were made to police in Victoria and Queensland in September last year. Woolworths subsequently pulled sewing needles from its shelves nationwide. Strawberry prices around the country plummeted in the wake of the tampering.
Victoria Police is advising anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.