A nine-year-old boy nearly swallowed a needle planted in strawberries, it has been revealed, as the hunt continues for a disgruntled worker accused of spiking the fruit.
The Queensland mother has said she found a needle when cutting up the fruit for her 12-month-old child, bringing the total to four people who have come forward saying they found needles in strawberries bought from Woolworths.
‘I was just cutting up some fruit in the morning for my 12-month-old and hit something hard and pulled it back and there was a needle embedded in it,’ Angela Stevenson told the ABC.
Haoni van Dorp was driving to the Sunshine Coast with his friend when they stopped at the Strathpine Woolworths north Brisbane and bought a punnet of strawberries
The two brands affected, Berry Obsession and Berrylicious, had come from the same farm in southeast Queensland
‘I then realised that my nine-year-old son had taken some strawberries to school, so I rang the school and said ‘I need you to stop him from eating the strawberries’.
‘It wasn’t five minutes later they rang back and said it was too late, he’d actually bitten into it. Luckily he’d pulled it back out of his mouth and told the teacher there was a needle in his strawberry.’
Sewing needles have been found hidden inside strawberries sold at Woolworths, sparking a recall of two brands that had been sold in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association has said early reports indicate a disgruntled farm worker may be responsible for the alarming act.
It says the two brands affected, Berry Obsession and Berrylicious, had come from the same farm in southeast Queensland.
A Queensland mother has said she found a needle when cutting up the fruit for her 12 month old child
Haoni van Dorp was driving to the Sunshine Coast with his friend when they stopped at the Strathpine Woolworths north Brisbane and bought a punnet of strawberries.
‘We were driving up the coast, heading to the beach and decided to get tucked into some strawberries and ended up finding a needle in there,’ he told The Today Show.
‘Bit straight in and knee-jerk reaction was to swallow and yeah wasn’t a pleasant surprise,’ he said.
‘We rushed straight to the University of Sunshine Coast hospital, straight to the ER room.’
Police won’t say if they have any leads, and will talk to the association about it’s suspicions a worker could be to blame.
‘That is a comment by the Queensland Strawberry Growers and we will talk with them to see if they have any information to assist us,’ Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence has told the Nine Network.
He repeated health department advice for people to ditch any affected berries they have bought between September 5 and 8, or cut them open to make sure they are safe to eat.
A Queensland man and two people from Victoria have reported finding needles in berries purchased from Woolworths.
A man has posted a picture of a sewing needle sticking out of a strawberry, claiming his friend had to be taken to the emergency room after swallowing another on Sunday afternoon
Police are checking every step of the production chain.
Jennifer Rowling, from Queensland Strawberry Growers Association, says growers are devastated by the incident, but customers can be sure that berries purchased from Thursday are safe.
‘We just really want to reinforce that it was one farm that’s been affected – the two labels within the one farm, and all those strawberries have been pulled off the shelves,’ she has told ABC radio.
‘We’re hoping people can see this for what it is, and that is an isolated incident. Initial reports that we were receiving was … that it did look like it was suspected that someone like a disgruntled employee may have done something.’
Woolworths has encouraged its customers to return suspect products for a full refund.
Consumers are being urged to throw out strawberries purchased over the past week in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria after needles were found inside the fruit.
Industry Development Officer Jennifer Rowling of Queensland Strawberry Growers Association released a statement on Wednesday of the company’s suspicions.
‘At this time, the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated the occurrence, wherein sewing needles were found in a number of strawberries, in Queensland and Victoria,’ the statement read.
‘To our current knowledge, two labels, Berry Licious and Berry Obsession are the only affected lines.
‘We will update the Australian public as news becomes available to us.’
Health officials and police on Wednesday said needles were hidden in at least three punnets of strawberries supplied to Woolworths from a southeast Queensland farm.
Haoni van Dorp (pictured) bit into one of the strawberries and swallowed half of a sewing needle
Authorities are investigating the contamination after a man reported swallowing a strawberry with a needle on Sunday.
Needles have been found in packets in two Woolworths stores in Victoria and another in Queensland with an urgent recall underway.
The farm where the strawberries were sourced sells to stores in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Joshua Gane was driving with his friend, Haoni van Dorp on Sunday afternoon, when they went into the Strathpine Centre Woolworths, about 20km north of Brisbane.
Buying a punnet of strawberries, the two men left the supermarket and kept driving.
Soon after, van Dorp says he bit into one and swallowed half of a sewing needle, before the pair found another.
Police believe the needles may have been deliberately planted with the perpetrator wanting to cause harm.
Gane posted the ordeal to Facebook, along with a picture that shows a metal pin poking out of a strawberry.
He said they took apart the rest of the strawberries, finding another pin.
He said his friend had to be taken to the emergency room with ‘severe abdomen pain’.
The pictures on Facebook show a metal pin sticking out of the strawberry, but the men aren’t sure how it came to be there.
Gane said the store manager contacted him following the incident, and told him they suspected foul play.
He wrote it was unclear who planted the needle, but said police and health and safety officials were called.
Queensland Police have now commenced an investigation into the contamination of the affected strawberry brands – Berry Obsession and Berry Licious.
Authorities are liasing with retailes to ensure all stock is removed from sale to prevent any further incidents.
He says after swallowing the needle, they took apart the rest of the berries and found another
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said anyone else who had bought the brands of strawberries without signs of tampering should return them to the store or throw them away.
‘While it is expected that berries picked early last week would now not be useable, many people freeze the fruit for later use,’ she said.
‘If you are in doubt, just throw them out.
She said that any strawberries bought from September 13 are safe and said this incident does not mean you stop eating strawberries.
‘Any strawberries that you are certain are not the brands Berry Licious and Berry Obsession, are safe.
‘If you believe you have eaten a needle, we would recommend you speak to your doctor or call 13 HEALTH.
‘There is no reason to stop eating strawberries, we just need to be aware of this incident.’
A spokesperson for Woolworths said the brand of berries have been ‘temporarily withdrawn’ from shelves, after the two men bought their punnet from the Strathpine Centre Woolworths
A Woolworths spokesperson said the ‘Berry Obsessions’ brand has been ‘temporarily withdrawn’ from shelves wherever they are supplied.
‘Woolworths takes food safety very seriously and we are looking into these claims with our supplier,’ they said in a statement.
‘We are working closely with authorities as they investigate this matter.
‘We have withdrawn Berry Obsession and Berrylicious branded strawberries from sale while this incident is being investigated.’