Father charged over fake strawberry report

A FATHER who claimed his young daughter bit into a strawberry with a needle inside has been charged with lying to police.

The 34-year-old phoned police on Monday and told officers that his daughter had bitten into a contaminated strawberry the week before.

The man, from the Adelaide suburb of Paradise, claimed he had purchased the fruit from a metropolitan supermarket.


Following investigations, detectives arrested the 34-year-old on Friday and charged him with making a false report to police.

He was also charged with falsely claiming goods had been contaminated.

The father was released on bail and is due to appear in Adelaide’s Magistrates Court on Monday.

It comes as the fruit contamination crises continues to sweep the nation, with cases now reported in every state and territory.

Police are investigating more than 100 reports of tampered fruit nationally, many of which are thought to be fake or copycat cases.

In a statement on Friday, Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said each report was being “fully investigated”.

“We are devoting plenty of resources to this investigation including 100 police officers and detectives in Queensland alone,” he said.

“I want to be really clear – we will take action against anybody providing false claims or pranking, including children.

“I’m urging all parents to talk to their children about the severity of making false claims, or sticking needles in fruit as a hoax – you’re messing with the industry’s livelihood and wasting police resources.”

The stern warning to kids comes after a teenage boy was arrested earlier this week after admitting to putting needles in strawberries as a prank.

He will be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.

FairFax Media on Saturday revealed the strawberry farm at the centre of the original industrial sabotage scandal is owned by a convicted drug trafficker from Victoria. Read more here.

The federal government fast-tracked new laws on Thursday which will see anyone convicted of tampering with food face up to 10 years, possibly more, in jail.

“The community is reminded that a person who deliberately and knowingly contaminates food could be charged with the offence of ‘Contamination of Goods’ which carries a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.

“Penalties could be even greater if these criminal acts cause injuries of a serious and or permanent nature.

“It’s ridiculous – stop playing games with people’s lives.”

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young says the advice remains unchanged – chop them, check them, then chomp them.

“Our advice remains that you can continue to eat strawberries, but you should cut them up before eating,” Dr Young said.

“We are working closely with our local and interstate counterparts as the investigation continues and are committed to keeping the public informed as this progresses.

“But please continue to support the industry and keep buying Queensland strawberries – I certainly will be.”

The Queensland and Federal Government’s have each committed $1 million to helping the struggling industry recover.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Acting Deputy Director-General Bernadette Ditchfield said the industry needs the support of government and the community now and into the future.

“We’re working with industry to provide as much support as possible including financial assistance, and workplace and wellbeing programs to help growers through this difficult time,” she said.

“They are a big part of the agriculture industry in Queensland, with up to 60 million punnets of strawberries produced from Queensland farms each season.

“Show your support for our farmers, enjoy their strawberries and help these family-run businesses.

“Representatives from government agencies will be showing support at the Strawberry Festival in Bundaberg on Saturday.”

Queensland Health confirms Berry Licious, Berry Obsession and Donnybrook Berries branded strawberries are the only three brands that have been pulled from supermarket shelves.

“All reports of contaminations are being fully investigated, but no further brands are being withdrawn at this time,” Dr Young said.

As investigations continue, police are appealing for the public to come forward with any information that could help resolve the matter.

Both the New South Wales and Queensland Governments have offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible.

Anyone with any information that could assist police with their investigation is urged to come forward and call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.