Woman charged with starting the strawberry needle contamination crisis

2 min read
Strawberries

She worked on a Queensland farm and reportedly wanted to "bring them down". 

A 50-year-old woman who reportedly worked as a farm supervisor has been charged with starting the strawberry needle contamination crisis.

The Courier Mail reports My Ut Trinh, known as Judy, was arrested on Sunday after her DNA was linked to the first needle that was found in a punnet from Queensland's Berrylicious/Berry Obsession farm. 

Police have accused her of inserting a needle into a strawberry with reports she was angry at the company, thus triggering multiple copycat incidents across the country. 

7 News reports Trinh told people she "wanted to bring them down" and "put them out of business". 

She has been charged with seven counts of contaminated goods, which would mean three-year maximum penalty. However, the term could be upped to 10 years due to aggravating circumstances.

Trinh will appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday. 

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the Drug and Serious Crime Group said those investigating the case were incredibly determined to solve the case:

"This is a major and unprecedented police investigation with a lot of complexities involved.

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

"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 cooperation and members of the public who assisted us with our inquiries."

More than 100 reports of tampered fruit are being investigated by police, with most believed to be fake or copycat cases.

Farmers across the country were forced to lay off staff as sales plummeted.

Stephanie Chheang, whose mother and step-father run Donnybrook Berries, took to Facebook to share a video of harvested fruit being dumped. She said:

"This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family. This is worth more than you could ever imagine and within three days we lost it all."

"We have to throw them out because the markets wouldn't take our strawberries due to the needle scare."

"They put all their money and effort in to building such a successful business. They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting.

"My mum works day through to night, controlling the shed and her 250 employees, making sure her strawberries are packed to perfection."

The government spent $1 million to help strawberry growers and consumers were urged to "cut 'em up, don't cut 'em out". 

Image: Getty Images 

Written By Marni Dixit