Police are investigating another claim of fruit tampering in South Australia after a third reported incident in as many days — the latest involving a needle found in a mandarin.
The incident has prompted a strong reaction from SA Police, with Commissioner Grant Stevens vowing to “come down as hard as we possibly can” on those responsible.
Police this morning revealed a customer at a Woolworths outlet at Findon in Adelaide’s west reported finding a needle in a mandarin purchased yesterday.
Earlier this week, police published details of other incidents, including needles discovered in a punnet of strawberries and in an avocado, and thumbtacks found in a loaf of bread at a Woolworths outlet in Golden Grove.
A thumbtack was reported to have been found in another punnet of strawberries at a Foodland supermarket at Goolwa.
Police said they were “appalled by the reckless actions” of those responsible.
“We are taking this very seriously and we will dedicate resources to crush this stupidity as quickly as possible,” Commissioner Stevens said.
“These acts are incredibly malicious and we’re doing as much as we can to identify people who are contaminating produce in our supermarkets.
“I’d certainly be encouraging our bail authorities to consider whether this person presents such a risk they should be remanded in custody.”
The remaining stock at the store on Findon Road has been checked and investigations are continuing.
A Woolworths spokesperson said the supermarket had launched an investigation into how the Findon incident occurred and inspected all mandarins to ensure no further contamination.
“We’re aware of the customer’s report and have referred the matter to SA Police along with CCTV footage from the store,” the spokesperson said.
“As a precautionary measure, our store team opened and inspected mandarins last night.
“We found no further product safety concerns in these checks.”
Incidents mirror 2018 strawberry scare
The Australian strawberry industry was devastated by a wave of needle and sharp object tampering incidents in 2018 reported in South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales.
Commissioner Stevens said he was amazed that similar incidents were re-emerging when businesses were trying to recover from the commercial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m absolutely amazed that this can re-emerge, particularly at a time like this where businesses are finding it really challenging to stay afloat,” he said.
“I would take this opportunity to warn anybody who is thinking about jumping on the bandwagon doing this that we will come down as hard as we possibly can on these people.
“This is incredibly damaging to the community.”
He said police would also be targeting anyone who makes a false report of such an incident.
“If we have information about people making false reports about this, which is something we saw last time, then we’ll certainly be coming down hard on those people as well.”