Strawberry needle contamination: Accused woman faces 10 years' jail

BREAKING: Woman arrested following major investigation into national strawberry contamination

Across all six Australian states, almost 200 complaints were made of sewing needles found in strawberries and other fruits, rocking the $116 million strawberry industry after consumers avoided the fruits at supermarkets.

Suncoast Harvest managing director Di West said her business had to leave more than one million punnets of strawberries on the ground, after the original and a number of copycat cases sent prices crashing.

On Monday Supt Jon Wacker, from Queensland Police, described it as a "unique investigation impacting virtually every state and jurisdiction in Australia".

The court in Brisbane on Monday heard that Ms Trinh's DNA had been found on strawberries in the state of Victoria.

The woman was arrested this afternoon and has been charged with seven counts contamination of goods under Section 238 Criminal Code, which has a three-year maximum penalty.

Forty-nine brands were Queensland-based.

In a statement, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk: "Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia - they are putting an entire industry at risk".

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Wacker said police received 186 complaints of fruit contamination, of which 15 had been found to be hoaxes. By the end of the month, over 100 alleged incidents of fruit sabotaged with pins and needles had been reported.

It also sent panic across the country's almost $150 million strawberry industry as supermarkets pulled the fruit from their shelves and some growers chose to dump their product at the peak of the season.

Police said a 50-year-old woman was arrested and charged on Sunday with seven counts of contaminating goods "following a complex. and extensive investigation".

Ms Trinh, a former refugee who arrived in Australia by boat more than two decades ago, will remain in custody until her next hearing later on November 22. Major food distributors in New Zealand removed Australian strawberries from stores.

The first contamination was reported in early September when a man in Brisbane was hospitalised after swallowing half a needle and complaining of severe abdominal pains.

Strawberry growers welcomed the charges but blamed social media for the crisis.

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