Australian citizens were left shaken throughout September, with over one hundred reports of needles being hidden inside strawberries.
Sewing needles were found in strawberries across each of the Australian states. Rather than boycotting the product, customers have been advised to continue supporting the industry; slicing and checking strawberries before eating them.
Unfortunately the problem appears to have spread, with a man having discovered a thin, sharp wire in Australian strawberries in Singapore.
Needles have also be found inside strawberries in Auckland, New Zealand, with New Zealand’s Countdown supermarket chain forced to withdraw the fruit brand Choice, TVNZ report.
Countdown have since made the following statement:
As an extra precaution and following similar advice from public health authorities in Australia, customers should cut up any Australian strawberries before eating them,
Countdown is in contact with both New Zealand and Australian authorities as they investigate this matter.
Looks like we have needles in our strawberry imported from Oz. Looks like New Zealand is not so isolated after all. Hope they catch who ever is doing this. Eat safe 🤔👍👀
— Barry Broeders (@bbroeders53) September 23, 2018
Grocer Dennis Tang tweeted a picture of himself holding the piece of metal wire he claims was inside a packet of strawberries purchase in Mahota shop, Singapore on September 18.
Mr Tang later deleted the tweet, stating:
My intention was always to warn my friends, especially those with kids, and get the relevant authorities to do the necessary investigations and checks. It was never meant to create unnecessary fear nor commotion.
Let’s just continue to live normally and just be a little more careful with what we put into our mouths like how we always do from the day we learned to eat.
Boycotting fruits from certain countries because of some idiotic prankster(s) is not needed at this moment.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) is now investigating the case, and have stated the brand mentioned in Tang’s tweet was not among the six affected brands in Australia.
As reported by The Straits Times, the AVA have said they are ‘contacting the feedback provider to establish the facts of the case’:
We urge the public to refrain from speculation and not to panic.
As a precautionary measure, consumers who have purchased strawberries from Australia can cut the fruits into small pieces before consumption.
As of September 24, Singapore’s largest supermarket chain FairPrice are no longer importing Australian strawberries.
Needles in strawberries is an act of financial vandalism ….keep buying strawberries but check them before eating . Don’t walk away from the producers .
— Tony Windsor (@TonyHWindsor) September 17, 2018
Total Fresh, the Singapore company which supplied the contaminated strawberries, advised The Strait Times both AVA and Mahota had contacted them in regards to the potential tampering.
General manager of Total Fresh Brian Seet explained the batch sold to Mahota had not gone through metal detector checks which are now being used due to tighter exporting rules.
The Australian grower had begun screening the strawberries only after the batch had been distributed on September 12. This has been the only complaint about Total Fresh’s strawberries.
Buy the strawberries. Cut the strawberries in chunks. If needles don’t fall out. Eat the Strawberries. If needles fall out- well don’t eat the strawberries. But keep buying strawberries and repeat. #Strawberry #aussiefarmers
— Nessa (@wimmerachic) September 16, 2018
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the following statement on September 19:
Any idiot who thinks they can go out into a shopping centre and start sticking pins in fruit and thinks this is some sort of lark or put something on Facebook which is a hoax, that sort of behaviour is reckless and under the provision that we’ll be seeking to introduce swiftly that type of behaviour would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
It’s not a joke. It’s not funny. You’re putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you’re scaring children. If you do that sort of thing in this country, we will come after you and we will throw the book at you.
If you didn't know, there are people in Australia putting needles in strawberries to hurt people or create fear or something
Real question is why of all the fruit, it has to be strawberries. The best fruit 😭🍓
— Loserfruit (@Loserfruit) September 18, 2018
The Australian government has now passed draft laws which may see food tamperers face prison sentences of up to 15 years.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.