Strawberry needle contamination: Australian woman accused of spiking fruit 'motivated by spite or revenge'

Crisis may have been caused by workplace grievance

Zamira Rahim@ZamiraRahim
Monday 12 November 2018 09:25
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Strawberry needle contamination: Consumers find needles in strawberries

An Australian woman who allegedly contaminated batches of strawberries with needles has been accused in court of acting out of spite.

The crime sparked panic across the country in September, causing one of Australia's biggest food scares and forcing distributors to issue devastating recalls.

Prosecutors are alleging that My Ut Trinh was "motivated by spite or revenge" and retaliated over a workplace grievance by placing needles in fruit.

The 50-year-old was working as a supervisor of fruit pickers at the Berrylicious strawberry farm near Caboolture, north of Brisbane, when she allegedly inserted needles into the fruit between 2 and 5 September, the Brisbane Magistrates Court was told.

Magistrate Christine Roney said that she would not consider granting Ms Trinh bail until the reasons for her actions became clearer.

Cheryl Tesch, a prosecutor, said that it would be alleged in court that DNA matching Ms ​Trinh's was found on one of the needles discovered in a strawberry.

The crime did not cause any severe injuries but was investigated by authorities in all six of Australia's states and in neighbouring New Zealand.

Australia's multimillion-dollar strawberry industry suffered major losses as fruit was recalled from supermarkets and destroyed.

A reward of $100,000 (£56,000) was offered for information at the height of the crisis.

Overall 230 incidents were reported across the nation, affecting 68 strawberry brands, according to Jon Wackers, the State Crime Command Superintendent.

Australia's Queensland state was particularly badly hit with 77 reported incidents, out of which 15 were later reported to be hoaxes or false complaints.

Michael Cridland, Ms Trinh's lawyer, withdrew a bail application but said his client was not an "unacceptable flight risk."

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She was remanded in custody until 22 November. If convicted she could face up to 10 years in jail.

A police investigation into the broader crisis continues.

Additional reporting by agencies

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