SYDNEY, Australia — The Queensland police have arrested a former strawberry trade employee for spiking strawberries with needles, against the law that fueled a nationwide scare that crippled Australia’s strawberry trade.
The girl, a former supervisor at a strawberry farm in Queensland, was arrested Sunday and has been charged with seven counts of contamination of products. The police say there was a “circumstance of aggravation,” that means that if convicted, she faces as much as 10 years in jail. The native information media recognized her as My Ut Trinh, 50.
“This has most likely been one of the making an attempt investigations that I’ve been part of,” Jon Wacker, a detective superintendent of the Drug and Critical Crime Group, mentioned in a information convention on Monday.
Information that fruit was being tampered with first broke in September, after a number of folks reported discovering needles in strawberries that they had bought. One 7-year-old lady bit right into a contaminated strawberry however was not harmed. One other man from Queensland was much less fortunate: he was hospitalized after he swallowed half a needle whereas consuming the fruit.
“It put me into shock,” the person, Hoani Hearne instructed 9 Information in an interview.
The incidents prompted one thing of a nationwide hysteria, and led to greater than 230 copycat incidents and false reviews of comparable strawberry spikings. Needles have been additionally reported in some bananas and apples. Officers started urging folks to chop up their strawberries earlier than consuming them.
Some supermarkets in Australia stopped stocking the fruit, and movies circulated of farmers dumping tons of ripe strawberries. Finally, 68 strawberry manufacturers have been affected, with 49 of them in Queensland, the police mentioned.
The occasions had a “crippling influence, bringing Queensland’s strawberry trade “to its knees” Jennifer Rowling, a spokeswoman for the Queensland Strawberry Growers Affiliation, mentioned in a press release Sunday.
“It was a disaster pushed by social media and the one actual victims have been the strawberry growers, and to some extent different Australian fruit growers and exporters,” she added.
In response, lawmakers pushed via more durable penalties for these discovered responsible of meals contamination. The Queensland authorities introduced that it might present 1 million Australian , or about $720,000, to offset the monetary influence on the strawberry trade. The state produces 30,000 tons of strawberries every season — 40 % of the nation’s strawberries, they mentioned.
Whereas the grower’s affiliation had mentioned it suspected a “disgruntled ex-employee” of finishing up the preliminary contaminations, the girl’s actual motives stay unknown. She is going to seem earlier than a Brisbane courtroom on Monday.
“All farmers and growers sincerely hope there is not going to be a repeat of previous occasions,” Ms. Rowling mentioned.
Strawberry gross sales are returning to regular, she added.