Australia offers $98k reward to find those sabotaging strawberries with needles

A Queensland police photo showing a thin piece of metal among a basket of strawberries in Gladstone, Queensland.
A Queensland police photo showing a thin piece of metal among a basket of strawberries in Gladstone, Queensland.PHOTO: EPA/EFE

MELBOURNE • The Australian state of Queensland yesterday offered a A$100,000 (S$98,260) reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for sabotaging strawberries with sewing needles.

The police have said that six brands of strawberries in Australia are believed to be contaminated with needles and pins, prompting warnings from the authorities to slice the fruit before eating.

"Someone is trying to sabotage the industry but also in doing that, they are putting babies' and children's and families' lives at risk," Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said at a press conference, where she confirmed the reward.

The Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis brands of strawberries are believed to be affected, according to the police, who said the contaminated fruit appeared to have originated at a Queensland-based supplier.

In Singapore, responding to reports last Friday implicating Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority told The Sunday Times yesterday that Singapore does not import all the six affected brands of strawberries (Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries, and Oasis).

Queensland is a major strawberry producer in a national industry worth more than A$130 million a year.

Woolworths Group has removed all the affected brands from shelves in its supermarkets, but continues to sell other varieties of the fruit.

Strawberry prices have dropped around the country.

ABC News reported yesterday that wholesale prices have halved to A$0.50 per punnet, below the cost of production in Western Australia, where strawberry crops are now peaking, with growers forced to dump tonnes of the fruit.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 16, 2018, with the headline 'Australia offers $98k reward to find those sabotaging strawberries with needles'. Print Edition | Subscribe