Three more credible threats of contaminated strawberries have been confirmed by Queensland Health, just days after an urgent recall was declared following the discovery of needles planted inside the fruit.
On Wednesday, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young advised anyone who has purchased strawberries from the Berry Liscious and Berry Obsession brands to dispose of their fruit immediately.
Now, three more punnets have been reported, this time coming from Donnybrook strawberry farms, north of Brisbane – the same area as the original farm. The three new contaminated punnets were reportedly found in Tweed Heads on the New South Wales border, Redbank Plains, west of Brisbane and Everton Park, in north Brisbane, the ABC reports.
The revelations came after a NSW mother claimed her 10-year-old child discovered a pin in a strawberry on Wednesday.
NSW mum Chantal Faugeras claimed she bought her punnet from a Coles supermarket on the NSW mid-north coast on Tuesday, and shared a photo of the contaminated fruit on Facebook.
“We found 3 pins inside 3 strawberries,” she wrote.
Queensland Health has confirmed Donnybrook’s strawberries will now be pulled from supermarket shelves.
“We are currently working with retailers nationwide to ensure that all Donnybrook stock is removed from sale,” Dr Young said in a statement. “If you have Donnybrook strawberries at home, or are unsure of the brand, you should return them to the store or throw them away.
“For all other brands, our advice remains that you can continue to eat strawberries, but you should cut them up before eating.”
“We are working closely with our local and interstate counterparts as the investigation continues and are committed to keeping the public informed as this progresses.”
A Coles spokesperson told Starts at 60: “Coles takes the safety of the food we sell seriously and we are working with our suppliers, police and state health regulators to investigate. The safety of our customers is our priority and anyone concerned about their health should seek medical advice.”
It comes after Queensland Health advised for anyone concerned they may have consumed the contaminated strawberries to contact 13 43 25 84 or speak to their GP immediately. The warning was issued after Joshua Gane posted a photo on Facebook of a needle inside a strawberry his friend had purchased from Woolworths earlier in the week.
“Just posting this as a warning to anyone that has bought strawberries (Berry Obsessions) from Woolworths recently,” Gane wrote on September 9. “Driving up to the coast when Hoani van Dorp bites through a strawberry and swallows half a sewing needle. We then checked the other strawberries and found another sewing needle lodged inside one of them.”
At the time, Gane said his friend was experiencing abdominal pain and explained he wanted to share the post so children didn’t have to endure similar pain.
“We are now at the ER because he subsequently started experiencing severe abdominal pain,” he continued. “Just being a helpful member of the community and making sure your children don’t have to endure what we have had to experience today. Please make your family and friends aware.”
He also explained that since the ordeal, the Woolworths store manager advised him all Berry Liscious and Berry Obsession punnets have been recalled from the supermarket’s shelves. The supplier, police and health and safety officials have also been contacted.
“They suspect it is foul play, but unsure whether it was via the supplier, Woolworths or a customer,” Gane said. “We will post further updates to keep the community informed.”
The strawberries in question were purchased from Woolworths at the Strathpine Centre, in the north of Brisbane.
An ex-employee has since been blamed for planting sewing needles inside the strawberries. In a statement released by Queensland Strawberry Growers Association on Wednesday, it was confirmed the company had suspicions a certain ex-employee had inserted the needles into the strawberries which were found over the last week.
“At this time, the Queensland Strawberry Association have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated the occurrence, wherein sewing needles were found in a number of strawberries, in Queensland and Victoria,” Industry Development Officer Jennifer Rowling said.
A Woolworths spokesperson later told Starts at 60: “Woolworths takes food safety very seriously and is working closely with authorities as they investigate this matter.
“We have withdrawn Berry Obsession and Berry Licious branded strawberries from sale while this incident is being investigated with our suppliers. Customers are advised to return these products to their local Woolworths for a full refund.”
If concerned, throw away any strawberries and seek medical attention from your GP if you’re experiencing pain.