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Arrest over strawberry needle contamination

Author
news.com.au,
Section
World,
Publish Date
Monday, 12 November 2018, 6:27a.m.
A 50-year-old Queensland woman has been arrested and charged with seven counts of contamination after needles were found in Australian strawberries. Photo / File
A 50-year-old Queensland woman has been arrested and charged with seven counts of contamination after needles were found in Australian strawberries. Photo / File

A 50-year-old Queensland woman has been charged with seven counts of contamination over the strawberry needle incidents that have sparked a nationwide crisis.

The woman was arrested this afternoon and has been charged with seven counts contamination of goods under Section 238 Criminal Code, which has a three-year maximum penalty.

A circumstance of aggravation will also be alleged, elevating the maximum to 10 years' imprisonment.

Her arrest follows a complex investigation into the alleged contamination of strawberries in Queensland in September.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the Drug and Serious Crime Group described it as a major and unprecedented police investigation.

"The Queensland Police Service has allocated a significant amount of resources to ensure those responsible are brought to justice," Spt Wacker said.

"While the investigation is far from over, I would like to acknowledge the tireless effort of our investigators as well as members from all other agencies across Australia who played a role.

"I would also like to thank those within the strawberry industry for their co-operation and members of the public who assisted us with our inquiries."

The woman is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday.

All six states had begun investigations into reports of tampering that has seen needles or pins discovered in strawberries, as well apples and bananas.

The crisis led to harsher penalties being rushed through federal parliament for those caught tampering with food.

It also resulted in tonnes of strawberries being dumped or going to waste around the country threatening the future of the half-a-billion-dollar industry.

After the discovery of punnets of strawberries contaminated with needles, Queensland authorities notified the public of the safety risk on September 12.

The Queensland Police Service co-ordinated a national investigative response with multiple government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

A police taskforce was established with officers from the State Crime Command co-ordinating the investigation together with detectives in a number of police districts in Queensland.

Investigations are continuing.

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