Apples and bananas in Sydney have been contaminated with needles, but New South Wales police believe the incidents are isolated and not related to the Queensland strawberry attack that occurred last week.
Concerns about potential copycat actions have emerged in the last few days as the crisis spread to six states.
Two incidents were confirmed in South Australia yesterday, while Western Australian police received reports of needles being found in three suburban Perth locations on Tuesday.
Today, NSW Police confirmed that an apple contaminated with a needle was found in Quakers Hill in western Sydney, while a banana purchased in Bankstown was subject to similar tampering in what they believe a separate incidents.
NSW detective superintendent Daniel Doherty called them “an act of treachery on the community” as police mount a coordinated effort across all states to try and find the perpetrators. The Queensland government is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for last week’s attack.
There have been 20 contamination incidents reported across NSW alone, spanning the state from Tweed Heads to Albury.
“We still don’t have any confirmed motivation or reasons why a person would want to do this, but all investigations are being treated as genuine,” Doherty said.
“However, any evidence of self-contamination or of copycat incidents impact on the industry and are very unhelpful to authorities, and will be treated as food contamination which, again, is a serious offence which carries 10 years jail.”
Det. Supt. Doherty said the public should remain vigilant when buying fruit and report any further incidents to police. Authorities are urging people to cut fruit to check for any problems before consuming it.
Six brands of strawberry punnets – Berry Licious, Berry Obsession, Donnybrook, Oasis, Love Berry and Delightful Strawberries – have now been recalled nationally, and while Aldi has begun to restock the fruit, strawberries remain off the shelves at Coles.
Today Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $1 million support fund for strawberry farmers saying the state was the victim of an “ugly, calculated and despicable crime”.
Farmers are now buying $20,000 metal detectors in a bid to ensure the fruit is leaving their farms uncontaminated.
The heartbreaking impact of the crisis was demonstrated in a video from Donnybrook Strawberries, an early victim of the Queensland crisis, which has now been forced to dump ripe strawberries by the truckload.
Stephanie Chheang, whose mother and stepfather built up the business, posted the video on Facebook saying her family lost it all within three days.
“My mum Leena Lee Cufari and my step dad has worked years to build the empire they’re sitting on now, they put all their money and effort in to build such a successful business,” she wrote.
“They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting.”
She said her mother works through the night managing the shed with 250 employees packing strawberries.
“This will not stop my family from doing what they do best, if anything they’re going to do better,” she wrote.
“I thank everyone who supports us and all the other farmers who were affected by this horrible issue. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Here’s the heartbreaking video.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.