News State QLD News Woman charged for alleged strawberry contamination

Woman charged for alleged strawberry contamination

needles strawberries
The two reports of needles in strawberries come ja year after a nationwide contamination scare. Photo: AAP
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A 50-year-old woman has been charged over the strawberry contamination saga that led to a nationwide crisis earlier this year.

Needles were found in a punnet of Queensland-grown strawberries in September, before the food safety scandal extended to all six states.

Queensland Police arrested a woman on Sunday afternoon following a national investigation with multiple government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

She was charged on Sunday night and will appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday.

The woman faces seven counts of contamination of goods, which has a three-year maximum penalty.

The allegation was upgraded to aggravation, elevating the maximum to 10 years imprisonment.

Investigations are continuing.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker said investigators were determined to solve the case.

“While the investigation is far from over, I would like to acknowledge the tireless effort of our investigators as well as members from all other agencies across Australia who played a role,” Detective Superintendent Wacker said.

“I would also like to thank those within the strawberry industry for their co-operation and members of the public who assisted us with our inquiries.”

Queensland authorities first notified the public of the safety risk on September 12.

The saga then extended to other states, with more than 100 cases by potential copycats or hoaxes.

Several brands were pulled from supermarket shelves, and some farmers were forced to dump strawberries.

Some growers introduced metal detectors to screen for a needle contamination.

Shoppers were advised to cut fruit into pieces before biting into it.

The federal government increased maximum penalties for food contamination from 10 to 15 years in jail in response to the crisis, and stumped up $1 million for the industry.

The Queensland government in September offered a $100,000 reward for information on strawberry contamination leading to an arrest and conviction.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk later announced a $1 million fund to boost the industry.

She said the funding would help promote the quality of Queensland strawberries, investigate how to improve traceability and integrity in the supply chain, and help growers for the remainder of the season.

If you have information for police, contact Policelink 131 444, or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.