THE public have been warned about the serious penalties associated with deliberate fruit contamination as investigations continue into the insertion of sewing needles into strawberries.
The investigation, which is now being led by Queensland Health, was launched on Wednesday, September 12 to investigate reports of contaminated strawberries supplied from Queensland.
Inquiries to date indicate the contamination affects three brands of strawberries – Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook – which were sold across Australia, including NSW. These three brands have since been recalled.
While police have received reports of potential contamination impacting other strawberry brands, consumers are advised they are believed to be safe to eat, but to be sure, cut the fruit before consuming.
So far, NSW Police Force has received more than 20 reports of contaminated strawberries, which have been seized for forensic examination.
Police are urging anyone who has purchased contaminated product to take the punnet to their local police station immediately for triage and forensic examination.
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“If any member of the community is concerned about the integrity of the product they’ve purchased, it may be returned to the point of sale,” a statement from NSW Police said.
All relevant information is being collated in each state and provided to Queensland authorities to assist with their ongoing investigation.
Police have also received reports of contamination of other types of fruit, including a banana and an apple, which are being treated as isolated incidents.
The community is reminded that deliberately contaminating food is a criminal offence and a threat to public safety. In NSW, the maximum penalty for the offence is 10 years imprisonment.
Anyone with information that may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or by visiting https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.
NSW Police officer say information will be treated in strict confidence.
The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.