The Western Australian government and strawberry industries across Australia have voiced their concerns over the recent spate of contaminated strawberries.
Major companies including Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries have stopped production nationwide, as authorities urge people to cut up all recently-purchased strawberries before consuming them.
Reports of contaminated punnets have surfaced in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales.
The Queensland Government pledged $1 million to assist strawberry farmers impacted over the past two weeks.
West Australian Police recently confirmed 10 separate incidents of strawberry contamination in Willetton, York, Kelmscott, Spearwood, Bull Creek, Bicton, Darlington, Hocking, Morley, and Rossmoyne.
Crime Squad Detectives are currently investigating how the needles were located with the strawberries, where the strawberries were purchased, who produced and packaged the strawberries, and whether there is any criminality in these discoveries.
WA Premier Mark McGowan backed the strawberry industry by putting out a $100,000 reward for information that will assist police with their investigation.
Each year, the strawberry industry adds $88 million per year to the state’s economy.
“It’s more important than ever that the WA community gets behind our state’s strawberry growers and buys local,” Mr McGowan said.
“Local strawberries are of the highest quality and we want to make sure that everyone can keep enjoying them.
“The actions of the people behind this needle sabotage are completely unacceptable – it is a serious criminal offence and our WA Police Force are on the case.”
Environmental Health Executive Director Jim Dodds said the Department of Health and local governments would “search strawberry fields and packing sheds to review production, picking, handling and distribution processes”.
Despite the scare, Australind Spudshed store manager Mohammed Madadi said community members were still coming in to buy punnets of strawberries.
“Everyone is still buying strawberries...people are saying they will cut them first, but they are still buying them,” he said.
Those with information have been urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or police on 131 444.