Nov 12, 2018
Arrest made in case of Australian strawberry contamination with needles

A 50-year-old woman has been charged with crimes related to the alleged contamination of strawberries in Queensland, Australia, according to the Queensland Police Service.

After the discovery of containers of strawberries contaminated with needles, Queensland authorities notified the public of the safety risk on Sept. 12. The case has since generated a substantial amount of international media coverage, and discussion about food safety.

The Queensland Health and Queensland Police in September announced several incidents of needles being found in strawberries from one producer in Queensland, and similar incidents in other Australian states.

“This contamination appears to be deliberate sabotage and is primarily a criminal investigation for state police,” Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie said in a statement at the time. “Implicated products have been removed from supermarkets. Australia has a strong record on food safety. These incidents are rare and isolated in Australia’s food safety history.”

Following an extensive investigation, officers arrested a 50-year-old woman Nov. 11, according to a police statement.

Multiple media outlets reported the woman was a former farm worker.

She was charged with seven counts of contamination of goods, which has a three-year maximum penalty. In addition, a circumstance of aggravation will be alleged, elevating the maximum to 10 years imprisonment. The suspect is due in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, Nov. 12. Investigations are continuing, police said.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the Drug and Serious Crime Group said investigators were always determined to solve the case.

“This is a major and unprecedented police investigation with a lot of complexities involved,” Superintendent Wacker said. “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.

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

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