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Woolworths withdraw strawberries after needles found in punnets

Strawberries have been pulled from shelves at Woolworths after a father claimed to find two needles in separate punnets. 

Raymond Kelly purchased two different brands of strawberries from Woolworths Meadowbrook in Logan, Queensland, on Wednesday.

The father was cutting up the fruit for his daughter’s school lunch when he says he made an alarming discovery.  

He said he found two needles, one in each of the two punnets.  

‘I was gutted. My daughter could have choked on that,’ he told 7NEWS.

‘She could have been hospitalised. Just sickening. I don’t know how anyone could do this.’

Mr Kelly said he went straight to the police, who are investigating. 

‘Police are conducting inquiries into a report of a contaminated food item in the Meadowbrook area,’ a Queensland Police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.

‘It relates to two food items purchased by one person from the same location. No one was injured… initial inquiries are underway.’

A Woolworths spokesman confirmed to Daily Mail Australia they were aware of the report and are cooperating with police.

‘We will assist the police with their investigation, and share CCTV footage as required,’ the spokesperson said.

‘As a precautionary measure, our store team opened and inspected other strawberry punnets this morning. We found no further product safety concerns in these checks.

‘We’ve also commenced our own investigation in line with our established food safety measures.’  

Back in 2018, a contamination crisis plagued the strawberry industry when needles were found lodged in dozens of packaged fruit.    

The first incident was reported in September 2018 and a further 230 cases were reported nationwide, impacting 68 strawberry brands.

Forty-nine brands were Queensland-based. In Queensland, 77 incidents were reported. Of those, 15 were believed to be a hoax or a false complaint.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a maximum of 15 years’ jail for anyone found guilty of contaminating food. 

‘It’s not a joke, it’s not funny. You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk, and you are scaring children… and you’re a coward and a grub,’ he said at the time.  

‘This is a shocking and cowardly thing for this individual and others who have jumped onto the bandwagon here to have engaged in.’

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the estimated farm gate value of Queensland strawberries had declined by 8 per cent for 2018 to 2019, worth around $12million. 

Mr Furner described the damage as ‘significant’ despite the best efforts from farmers to ensure consumers safety. 

‘The damage was significant and I guess to some extent it was good that it was toward the end of the season,’ he said.

‘A lot of concern was around needle contamination.’ 

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