A 50-year-old woman has been arrested in Australia for sparking a nationwide food contamination panic involving strawberries with needles hidden in them.
The needles were first found by consumers in September. On the 12th of that month, someone ended up in the hospital after swallowing half a needle while eating a strawberry bought in a Woolworths store north of Brisbane. What followed collapsed the wholesale price for strawberries in Australia.
Dozens more were found, and chains such as Coles, Aldi and Woolworths removed strawberries from their shelves—the latter company also temporarily pulled sewing needles for good measure. Many strawberries were destroyed. All in all, there were 230 contamination reports.
My Ut Trinh, a former supervisor at one of the affected farms, Berrylicious, was arrested on Saturday. On Monday, she appeared at the Brisbane Magistrates Court, where magistrate Christine Roney said Trinh apparently put the needles into the strawberries to get back at her boss for something—it’s not clear what.
Local reports said Trinh told people she wanted to bring her employers down and “put them out of business.” Her DNA was found in one of the contaminated punnets.
Trinh has been charged with seven counts of food contamination, and may face up to 10 years in jail if she is convicted. The Queensland Growers Association, which counts strawberry farmers among its members, said copycat offenders should also be charged.