The Australian police Sunday was arrested and accused of a 50-year-old woman with polluting strawberries with needles, the latest chapter in a public health wreck that has seized the country since mid September.
The woman whose identity has not yet been released by the police faces seven bills of contamination of goods, according to a statement released by the Queensland Police Service.
Strawberries containing needles were reported for the first time in Queensland, the third most common in the six states of Australia, September 8 after a 21
-year-old man who accidentally consumed one of the contaminated berries was rushed to the hospital with “severe abdominal pain.”
“Drive up to the coast when Hoani van Dorp bites through a strawberry and swallows half a sewing,” wrote Joshua Gane, the victim’s friend, in a Facebook letter. “We then looked at the other strawberries and found another sleeping needle embedded in one of them.”
The Queensland authorities reported to the public about the security risk on September 12, and reports of needle-filled strawberries were documented in all the Australian states in the following weeks. Those who found the spicy fruit included a 7 year old girl in southern Australia.
The suspect will appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday. She faces up to ten years in jail if they were sentenced, officials said.
The widespread needle catch demanded six brands: Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries, Oasis, Berry Obsession and Berry Licious.
Needles were also apparently found in at least one mango and at least one banana, but it is unclear if these were isolated incidents, possibly made by a copycat, or if they were related to the strawberries scare.
Queensland Strawberry Growers Association Vice President Adrian Schultz told the Associated Press in September that what had begun as a single act of “commercial terrorism” had taken a multimillion dollar industry to knee.
“I am angry with all the people, the peasants, the people who provide them, the packaging people, the truckers with families who support, who suddenly lose their jobs … it’s far-reaching,” said Schultz.
Officials of the Strawberry Association said “they have reason to suspect that an unhappy ex-employee” of Woolworth, the supermarket where many of the affected strawberries were sold, were behind the contamination.
The Queensland police released some details in its arrest announcement on Sunday and did not speculate on a motive. Queensland Police Detective Supt. Jon Wacker said that “a significant amount of resources” were assigned to the case.
“This is a major and unprecedented police investigation with very complicated features,” Wacker said in a statement. “Although the investigation is far from, I would like to acknowledge investigators’ exhausting efforts and members from all other agencies in Australia who played a part.”