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Contaminated strawberries, Queensland - update 6

Police are appealing for the public to come forward with any information that could help resolve the strawberry contamination matter.

Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the investigation continues to focus on a small number of credible contaminations to three brands, and inquiries continue into other potential contamination reports.

“It is important to the investigation that police hear from anyone who might know something about these contamination reports. I encourage anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” he said.

“All reports of contaminations are being fully investigated.

“We are devoting plenty of resources to this investigation including 100 police officers and detectives in Queensland alone.

“I want to be really clear – we will take action against anybody providing false claims or pranking, including children.

“I’m urging all parents to talk to their children about the severity of making false claims, or sticking needles in fruit as a hoax – you’re messing with the industry’s livelihood and wasting police resources.

“The community is reminded that a person who deliberately and knowingly contaminates food could be charged with the offence of 'Contamination of Goods' which carries a penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment.

“Penalties could be even greater if these criminal acts cause injuries of a serious and or permanent nature.

“It’s ridiculous – stop playing games with people’s lives.”

Investigations into cases of contaminated strawberries remain ongoing. Berry Licious, Berry Obsession and Donnybrook Berries branded strawberries are the only three brands that have been withdrawn from the market.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said the health advice remains unchanged – chop them, check them, then chomp them.

“Our advice remains that you can continue to eat strawberries, but you should cut them up before eating,” Dr Young said.

“We are working closely with our local and interstate counterparts as the investigation continues and are committed to keeping the public informed as this progresses.

“But please continue to support the industry and keep buying Queensland strawberries – I certainly will be.”

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Acting Deputy Director-General Bernadette Ditchfield said industry needs the support of government and the community now and into the future.

“We’re working with industry to provide as much support as possible including financial assistance, and workplace and wellbeing programs to help growers through this difficult time,” she said.

“They are a big part of the agriculture industry in Queensland, with up to 60 million punnets of strawberries produced from Queensland farms each season.

“Show your support for our farmers, enjoy their strawberries and help these family-run businesses.

“Representatives from government agencies will be showing support at the Strawberry Festival in Bundaberg tomorrow (Saturday 22 September).”

All reports of contaminations are being fully investigated, but no further brands are being withdrawn at this time.

The Queensland Government has offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible.

Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

ENDS

Media contact:            3708 5376

Last updated: 21 September 2018