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Ex-Employee Blamed For Strawberry Needle Sabotage

It’s being reported that a disgruntled ex-employee is to blame for planting sewing needles in punnets of strawberries sold at Woolworths stores in a number of states across Australia.

As a result thousands of punnets of Berry Obsession and Berrylicious strawberries purchased from Woolworths stores in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have been recalled, with at least one man being hospitalised after ingesting part of a needle.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association have since claimed that they have “reason to suspect a disgruntled ex-employee” may be behind the berry needle sabotage.

“The association is waiting on more information from Queensland Police on this matter and will update the Australian public as news becomes available to us,” the statement read.

Queensland Health have called for all brands to be thrown out as a precautionary measure.

It is understood that a 21-year-old Queensland man had to be hospitalised after he ate a strawberry that had a sewing needle stuck in the middle of it.

Hoax Hearne purchased the fruit on Sunday from Strathpine Centre Woolworths, around 20km north of Brisbane. A photo of the contaminated strawberry was posted to Facebook by his friend Joshua Gane.

“Driving up to the coast when Hoani Hearne bites through a strawberry and swallows half a swing needle,” he said. “We then checked the other strawberries and found another seeing needle lodged inside one of them. We are now at the emergency room because he subsequently started experiencing severe abdominal pain.

“Just being a helpful member of the community and making sure your children don’t have to endure what we have had to experience. Please make your family and friends aware.”

Currently three punnet of strawberries have been found with sewing needles in them, one in Queensland and two in Victoria, including Yarram and Sebastopol near Ballarat. They are believed to have come from a farm in Queensland’s south-east.

Queensland Health issued a warning to the public yesterday.

“I’m out here today to advise people if they've bought any strawberries in Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria since early last week, that they should dispose of them," Queensland Health's chief health officer Jeanette Young said.

"If someone were to swallow a sewing needle it could get caught up in their gut."

Woolworths have also released a statement saying that they are taking this matter very seriously and are working with authorities to investigate the incident.

“We have withdrawn Berry Obsession and Berry Luscious branded strawberries from sale while this incident is being investigated with our suppliers,” the spokesperson said. “Customers are advised to return these products to their local Woolworths for a full refund.”

Police began an investigation on Sunday after Hearne was taken to hospital after swallowing one of the contaminated strawberries.

Queensland Police Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence would not say which farm was involved or at what point the needles were planted in the fruit.

“It’s been some time for us to look at this sort of investigation, quite some time,” he said.

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