Fruit spiking scare affects NZ consumers

Caption: Tonnes of ripe strawberries dumped at Queensland’s Donnybrook Farms.

The effects of the fruit-spiking crisis that is devastating Australian growers have spread across the Tasman, as Newsie reports. Quote:

Foodstuffs has halted the distribution of Australian strawberries after sewing needles were found inside the fruit sold in supermarkets across the Tasman.

Sewing needles have been found in punnets of strawberries purchased in five states or territories – the latest in Tasmania.

Australian police believe a disgruntled farm worker is to blame for the cases in Queensland, but said copycats may be responsible in other states.

Foodstuffs said it was confident there was no product in its stores that have been affected by the Australian action.

But the company said for added reassurance it elected to halt distribution of Australian strawberries. The decision was made yesterday. End of quote.

In Australia, the issue has snowballed in the days since the first case of spiking was reported recently. Quote:

There have now been nine confirmed cases of strawberries found with needles in them and one consumer has been hospitalised, the ABC reported.

The latest incidents reported were the discovery of needles in three strawberries in a single punnet. End of quote.

Only one person has actually been injured, so far, but the very risk has spooked consumers. Now, idiotic copycats across the country are making the crisis worse. Prices have plummeted, and growers forced to destroy tonnes of fruit. Quote:

Former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce says the strawberry saboteurs who have forced the industry to the brink of collapse must be ?pursued and hunted down??Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie described the sabotage as ?absolutely disgusting.?

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says anyone who knows anything must inform authorities?

[West Australian] Premier Mark McGowan said??They are liable to 20 years in prison in WA. If you undertake this sort activity, you can and will be caught.? End of quote.

Given such harsh words from politicians, it seems astonishing that a woman in Mackay, Queensland, who was caught inserting a needle into a banana was let go with a warning.

The crisis is devastating Australian growers. Quote:

Strawberry growers are dumping thousands of tonnes of fruit, laying off workers and killing crops they cannot sell as the contamination scare widens, with a child biting a strawberry containing a needle in Perth yesterday and needles found in an apple and ?banana sold in Sydney.

Glasshouse Mountains grower Aidan Young, whose family has been farming strawberries since 1922, yesterday sadly ploughed ripe strawberries into the ground.

Normally at this harvest peak, Mr Young would be sending 20,000 punnets a day to major fruit wholesale markets in Sydney and Brisbane from his family?s Braetop Berries farm near Caboolture, in Queensland?s Moreton Bay region. This week he has sold less than half ? devastatingly, he has to pick them to encourage the next crop, and then dump them in a farm pit to rot.

He has killed some of the crop with chemical spray, as there is no point financially in growing and harvesting fruit to sell for 50c a punnet, just a third of their cost. End of quote.

Meanwhile, in a new twist, officials from Australian Border Force are now involved. Quote:

Immigration officers have joined the investigation into Australia?s strawberry tampering crisis as police try to determine who had the opportunity to insert sewing needles into the fruit before they were sold to consumers. End of quote.

In the early 1980s, a saboteur killed seven people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages after bottles of Tylenol were laced with cyanide. The case has never been solved. The motive for this sabotage remains a complete mystery. Luckily, no-one has been injured, let alone killed, but the damage being done is enormous. Whether the work of a disgruntled employee, a lone crazy, or even, as some have whispered, economic terrorism, remains to be seen, if ever.

Meanwhile, keep calm, cut up your fruit, and carry on.