Fruit needle scare: Police investigate another metal find, but Tasmanian growers ‘confident’

Huonville police have revealed a fourth incidence of alleged fruit contamination reported on Wednesday.

A royal gala apple bought on Monday from Woolworths in Huonville was found to contain a pin.

The contamination was discovered when a nine-year-old boy was eating the apple, which had been cut in half.

Police have seized the pin, and will work with colleagues interstate while they investigate.

Police are warning the public to cut up apples and strawberries before eating them.

In previous reports. a small metal object was found also on Wednesday in a locally-grown apple from Shoreline Woolworths.

A 2-centimetre piece of metal was discovered on Tuesday night in a strawberry purchased from Kingston Town Woolworths when it was being eaten by a two year-old child.

The first report to police in Tasmania was of an alleged strawberry contamination from fruit bought at Woolworths at Rosny on Sunday.

Tasmanian Growers optimistic

The group representing Tasmanian fruit growers is calling on the public to continue to buy fruit.

Fruit Growers Tasmania chief executive Stuart Burgess, said people shouldn’t be concerned about Tasmanian produce.

“The Tasmanian industry doesn’t come online with produce until at least another four to five weeks so from Tasmanian producers they are certainly no where near involved in this as yet,” he said.

“We’re quietly confident and hopeful that the authorities and the mainland growers where it is impacting will have this well and truly settled by the time our product comes online.”

Police working with interstate colleagues

The contaminated strawberry report involving the two-year-old child is not yet linked to any Queensland reports.

“We can’t confirm at this stage that the alleged contamination [reported Tuesday] is linked to the Queensland incident but there is no evidence to suggest it is a hoax,” Detective Acting Inspector David Richardson said.

A small metal object was also found in an apple bought from Shoreline Woolworths on Wednesday morning, and is not believed to be linked to cases in Queensland.

Police believe it was grown locally, raising the prospect of a copycat crime.

“That would indicate someone is copying the misbehaviour,” he said.

Anyone putting metal objects like needles in fruit could face jail time for creating a common nuisance.

“[This is] punishable by up to 21 years in prison, that’s the mechanism by which this could go to court,” he said.

There is also an ongoing investigation into an alleged needle contamination of a strawberry purchased from Woolworths at Rosny on Sunday.

Police are conducting forensic examinations in all four cases, with results being expected in coming days.

“All relevant information is being collated in each state and provided to Queensland authorities to assist with their ongoing investigation,” Detective Acting Inspector Richardson said.

The acting director of public health, Dr Scott McKeown, said that with the discovery of an apple containing a metal object the department was now widening the health warning.

“This is the first incident that involves another fruit … our advice to Tasmanians to protect themselves they should consider cutting all fruit into small pieces before eating.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact CrimeStoppers.

Government urges Tasmanians to continue buying fruit

There have been more than 100 reports of needles and other metal pieces found in strawberries, apples and bananas around the country this week, and at least four cases involving fruit bought in supermarkets in southern Tasmania.

It’s believed at least one apple came from a Huonville orchard and the Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney is urging consumers to continue buying Tasmanian fruit.

“It’s important that we support farmers through this,” Ms Courtney said on Thursday afternoon.

Three mainland states have now offered a $100,000 rewards for information leading to prosecutions over fruit tampering.

Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney said the Government will stand by fruit producers if the need arises.

“The Tasmanian Government always works with farmers and growers through times of difficulty,” she said.

“It’s still another month of so before our strawberries start coming on online and I’d very much hope we’d have this incident resolved by then. However we’ll always stand by farmers and growers.”

Feature image credit: ABC Rural, Margot Kelly

This article was written as part of my employment with the ABC. It was published on 20/9/2018 and is available here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-19/metal-found-in-tasmanian-strawberry-and-apple/10282780

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