Needles in strawberries scare spreads across Australia2 min read

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Australia and New Zealand have been gripped by fear over sewing needles hidden inside strawberries on supermarket shelves. 

Growers have started using metal detectors and the Queensland state government has offered a reward of 100,000 AUD (£55,000) for information to help them find the culprit. 

Six brands – Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries, Oasis, Berry Obsession and Berry Licious – have been recalled amid the contamination scare, with shoppers advised to cut up the fruit before eating it. 

The Australian federal government has launched an investigation to restore confidence after needles were reportedly found in strawberries in all six Australian states, although no injuries have yet been reported.  

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt ordered the national food safety watchdog to investigate Queensland’s handling of the needle scare.

He directed Food Standards Australia New Zealand to investigate whether there are supply chain weaknesses that need to be fixed.

‘The job is very, very clear. Protect the public and keep them safe,’ Mr Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Both of New Zealand’s major food distributors, Foodstuffs and Countdown, announced on Monday they are taking Australian strawberries off their shelves because of the scare.

New Zealand imports Australian strawberries when they are out of season locally from April to September, and both chains say the home-grown product will be on supermarket shelves soon.

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Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz said what had started as a single act of ‘commercial terrorism’ had brought a multimillion-dollar industry to its knees.

The Queensland state government's health department posted on Facebook to warn about the potential contamination of strawberries with sewing needles 

The Queensland state government's health department posted on Facebook to warn about the potential contamination of strawberries with sewing needles 

The Queensland state government’s health department posted on Facebook to warn about the potential contamination of strawberries with sewing needles 

‘I’m angry for all the associated people, it’s the farmers, the people who supply them, the packaging people, the truckies with families to support, who suddenly lose their jobs … it’s far-reaching,’ Mr Schultz said.

Major Australian supermarket chains Coles and Aldi have pulled all strawberries from their shelves across Australia except in Western Australia state as a precaution.

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But Western Australia police announced on Monday that the first suspected needle contamination case has been reported in locally grown fruit.

A man in the town of York reported to police that he found a needle in a sink after washing strawberries.

The report came after a seven-year-old girl in South Australia state found a needle in a Western Australia-grown strawberry on Saturday.

Western Australia Health Minister Roger Cook said the needle could have been inserted in the fruit after it arrived in South Australia.

Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia president Neil Handasyde said growers had received requests from major retailers and insurance companies to scan fruit for needles.

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