- Two needles were found in a punnet of grapes in Australia on Monday, bringing the fruit contamination crisis back into the spotlight.
- 186 reports of needles hidden in strawberries in all six Australian states forced the government to introduce 15-year jail terms for perpetrators.
- Needles were also found in a mango, a banana, and an apple, as well as in strawberries sold in New Zealand and Singapore.
Two needles were found in a bag of grapes bought from an Australian supermarket on Monday, resurrecting the national crisis which saw 186 people find needles in strawberries and other fruit.
The needles, hidden in two separate grapes from a batch sold at a Woolworths supermarket, were found by a couple in the city of Melbourne.
Skender Hasa and Shams Alsubaiy did not eat either of the grapes with needles in, so were not hurt. Police are investigating the latest discovery of the two needles found in a batch of grapes,9 News reported.
But the incident was a return of one of the darkest and strangest news events in Australia in 2018. In September and October last year, close to 200 people reported finding needles in various types of fruit.
Australia’s prime minister responded personally to the crisis, which badly hit parts of the country’s agriculture sector. The government ultimately rewrote parts of the law to mandate harsher punishment.
The strawberry needle crisis started on September 9 when one victim ended up in hospital after eating a strawberry with a needle inside.
A total of 186 cases of needles hidden in strawberries were reported, Jon Wacker, superintendent of the Queensland Police Drug and Serious Crime Group, said on November 12.
Needles were found in various fruit in all six Australian states, in neighbouring New Zealand, and also in at least one pack of Australian-grown strawberries sold in Singapore.
Australia’s government amended a law to more harshly punish those responsible for hiding the needles, increasing the maximum sentence from 10 years in prison to 15.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously criticised the perpetrators.
“You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk, and you are scaring children,” he said, “and you are a coward and a grub.”
The crisis was tough on some Australian strawberry farmers, some of whom had to scrap whole harvests to avoid any risk of contamination.
The crisis got so bad that Woolworths, Australia’s largest supermarket, temporarily stopped selling needles in all 995 of its stores.
Several arrests were made in relation to the crisis – including some who joined in with the phenomenon after it became news. A strawberry farm worker, was charged with “one occasion of aggravation contamination”[sic] on November 11.
Prosecutors allege 50-year-old My Ut Trinh was “motivated by spite or revenge,” the Metro reported.
Woolworths told Business Insider: “At Woolworths, we take food safety very seriously. We’re aware of the customer report and will work closely with the authorities as they investigate this matter.”
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