The nation’s strawberry sabotage crisis has spread to Tasmania as police investigate a claim that berries with needles inside were found at a Woolworths supermarket in Hobart.
New Zealand supermarket chain Foodstuffs announced on Monday they would stop selling punnets of Australian strawberries as the search for the culprits continue.
Tasmania police released a statement saying it contacted the Woolworths store at Rosny Park after becoming aware of “an alleged incident reported on social media”.
“This afternoon a customer returned strawberries to the supermarket which were purchased earlier in the day, alleging they had been contaminated by a needle,” the statement read.
The affected strawberries were collected by police and are being investigated for possible contamination.
“As the products have yet to be forensically examined, it is unknown if the contamination is related to the ongoing incident in Queensland or a copycat,” police said.
South Australia became the fifth official state and territory to be implicated in the ongoing fruit sabotage saga after a needle was found inside a berry in a small grocery store.
A customer found the needle while eating fruit from a punnet of Mal’s Black Label strawberries on Sunday, South Australia Police say.
The punnet was bought from Klose’s Foodland Supermarket, in the Adelaide Hills settlement of Littlehampton on Saturday, with the independent grocery retailer pulling the strawberries from all its shelves.
It comes after Health Minister Greg Hunt ordered the national food safety watchdog to assess the states’ handling of strawberry contamination.
Police are investigating claims that needle sabotage has now spread to six brands of strawberries across five states.
The news comes just a day after needles were discovered in strawberries in a Sydney supermarket, and the Queensland government offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprit.
Coles and Aldi supermarkets have pulled all strawberries from their shelves across the country, except Western Australia, as a precaution over needle contamination fears.
Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries branded fruit have recalled their strawberries nationwide.
Police are also investigating contamination of fruit sold by Delightful Strawberries, Love Berries and Oasis in stores in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and the ACT.
“This is a very vicious crime and it’s a general attack on the public, and it’s also an attack on a specific industry,” he told reporters on Sunday.
Mr Hunt said while it was primarily a problem for the states, he had asked his department to request Food Standards Australia New Zealand make an “immediate appraisal” of the situation.