Sewing needles have been found in strawberries in all six states, leading New Zealand to pull the Australian-grown fruit from its supermarket shelves.
Police are investigating after the metal needles were found in punnets of fruit across the country, as nervous growers fear a multi-million dollar commercial sabotage.
Two contaminated punnets of Mal’s Black Label strawberries have been found in separate towns outside Adelaide, with the latest in Morphett Vale.
“People need to slice their fruit prior to consumption and please contact police immediately if you find any contaminated fruit,” SA Police said on Monday.
Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz said “commercial terrorism” was bringing an industry to its knees.
“I’m angry for all the associated people, it’s the farmers, the people who supply them, the packaging people, the truckies with families to support, who suddenly lose their jobs … it’s far-reaching,” he said.
The Mal’s Black Label strawberries were grown in Western Australia, where a man on Monday reported to the York Police Station in regional WA that he’d found a needle in a punnet of strawberries.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered Food Standards Australia New Zealand to investigate whether there are supply chain weaknesses or systemic changes needed.
“At the end of the day, the job is very, very clear. Protect the public and keep them safe,” he told the ABC on Monday.
Both Foodstuffs and Countdown (owned by Woolworths) – which between them control nearly the entire New Zealand grocery market – on Monday announced they had stopped sending out Australian strawberries to their stores.
In separate statements, the stores said while none of their products had been affected by a major recall in Australia, they wanted to reassure customers.
New Zealand imports the fruit from Australia when it’s out of season, from April to September, and both chains say the Kiwi product will be on shelves shortly instead.
Nationals frontbencher Andrew Broad blasted the culprits as “low-life scum”.
Coles supermarkets have pulled all strawberries from their shelves, except Western Australia, as a precaution.
Aldi supermarkets are returning non-contaminated strawberry brands to their shelves.
Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries have recalled their strawberries nationwide.
A health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.