Woman arrested over Australia strawberry needle scare

SYDNEY (AFP) – A woman has been arrested after a complex investigation into an Australian strawberry scare where needles were found stuck into the fruit, police said on Sunday (Nov 11), in a crisis that sparked nationwide panic.

Queensland state authorities offered a large reward and the national government raised jail terms for such crimes after sewing needles were found in plastic boxes of the fruit sold in supermarkets in September.

Since the first case came to light when a man was taken to hospital with stomach pains after consuming strawberries, more than 100 alleged incidents of pins and needles found in fruit, mostly strawberries, were reported in September around the country.

One incident was also reported in neighbouring New Zealand.

Police said a 50-year-old woman was arrested on Sunday afternoon “following a complex… and extensive investigation” into the contamination case.

“The (Queensland Police Service) coordinated a national investigative response with multiple government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” they added in a statement.

The woman was set to be charged on Sunday evening and appear in court in Brisbane on Monday.

Police did not reveal any further details, including what the charges would be or the reasons and motives behind her alleged involvement.

The sabotage crisis led supermarkets to pull the fruit from the shelves and saw farmers dump tonnes of the unwanted berry. The government raised the maximum prison sentence for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years.

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