Woman arrested following major investigation into national strawberry contamination

Arturo Kim
November 12, 2018

Across all six Australian states, almost 200 complaints were made of sewing needles found in strawberries and other fruits, rocking the $116 million strawberry industry after consumers avoided the fruits at supermarkets.

Queensland police notified the public of a safety risk on September 12 after the contaminated punnets were discovered.

There were over 100 reports of needles being found in strawberries, though many were suspected to be copycat cases or social media stunts.

Queensland Police said it has conducted a national investigation "with multiple government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies" - as well as a police task force in the state.

Ms Trinh had worked as a supervisor at a strawberry farm north of Brisbane, according to Queensland Police.

An Australian woman was arrested over the weekend after a two-month investigation into needles hidden in strawberries that sparked contamination fears in the region.

The woman was taken to the Brisbane watch house after her arrest.

"This has probably been one of the most trying investigations that I've been part of", Jon Wacker, a police official in the largest strawberry producing region of Queensland, where the crisis was first reported, told reporters. Each count against her carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

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It was alleged in court that My Ut Trinh's actions arose in retaliation to a workplace grievance, sparking recalls that devastated the industry in Australia after needles were found in strawberries in all six of Australia's states, a court has heard.

The sabotage crisis led supermarkets to pull the fruit from the shelves and saw farmers dump tonnes of the unwanted berry.

If found guilty, Trinh - also known as Judy - could face 10 years in jail.

Earlier, police spoke of the challenges investigators faced as they tried to figure out the source of the contamination.

A match for her DNA was allegedly found on a needle in a strawberry found in Victoria. In Queensland, 77 incidents were reported.

Thewoman has had her bail application withdrawn and will reappear in court on November 22.

In Queensland, where the strawberry industry is worth A$160m (£89m; $115m) a year, the local government pledged A$1m to support the state's stricken farmers.

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