The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that the confirmed incidents of strawberry tampering in Australia has risen to nine, with other unconfirmed reports coming in to police. There are six different brands of strawberries which have been known to be affected, and they have been sold at different markets in different types of venue. Originally restricted to New South Wales, contaminated berries have now been found in Queensland as well.
As of early this morning, all states of Australia have had reports of needle tampering.
A fear of the police, and police worldwide, is that others may already be performing “copycat” operations after the apparent success of the original efforts. As yet, only one copycat has been found, a 62-year old woman caught inserting a needle into a banana, also in Australia.
As yet, the police are reporting no clues about the identity, motivations or methodology of the person or persons who have been inserting sewing needles into strawberries in New South Wales. A suspect is specified but unnamed in Queensland, where the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association has released a public statement targeting a “disgruntled ex-employee”.
The government of Queensland has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the the original culprit.
The fears of tampering have caused strawberries to be pulled from the shelves in Australia and New Zealand, with global exports threatened or diminished during the peak of the Australian growing season. The Australian strawberry market is a $130 million / year industry.
Three brands of strawberries have already been recalled.