Needle allegedly found in Berry Obsessions strawberries purchased from Woolworths at northside Brisbane. Pic: Supplied.
Needle allegedly found in Berry Obsessions strawberries purchased from Woolworths at northside Brisbane. Pic: Supplied.

Needles in strawberries: Who police suspect

TWO popular strawberry brands have been recalled from Woolworths stores across three states, including NSW, with a disgruntled former employee accused of ­deliberately inserting sewing needles into the fruit.

Last night the supermarket giant was scrambling to ensure any sabotaged punnets from the Berry Licious and Berry Obsession labels had been pulled from shelves after three customers said they found needles in strawberries in Queensland and Victoria.

One man had to go to hospital after ingesting a broken needle.

Industry sources said the same strawberries were sold in NSW, sparking widespread safety fears.

Hoani Hearne: “I got X-rays done and ended up getting some pretty severe abdominal pains.” Picture: NINE News
Hoani Hearne: “I got X-rays done and ended up getting some pretty severe abdominal pains.” Picture: NINE News

The contaminated strawberries come from one farm and police suspect the ground-down needles were deliberately planted, with the culprit intending to cause "grievous bodily harm or other objectives".

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association last night accused a disaffected former employee of planting the needles inside the fruit.

"At this time, (we) have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated the occurrence, wherein sewing needles­ were found in a number of strawberries," the association's­ Jennifer Rowling said.

"To our current knowledge, two labels, Berry Licious and Berry Obsession, are the only affected lines."

A strawberry spiked with a needle from the same punnet as the fruit which struck down Brisbane man Hoani Hearne. Picture: Facebook/Joshua Gane
A strawberry spiked with a needle from the same punnet as the fruit which struck down Brisbane man Hoani Hearne. Picture: Facebook/Joshua Gane

Police were investigating the possibility of an extortion attempt or someone carrying out a vendetta against the supermarket giant.

Brisbane man Haoni Hearne, 21, said he swallowed part of a needle inside a strawberry on Sunday before being hospitalised.

"It snapped in half, my knee-jerk reaction was to swallow, and I found the other half of the needle in the strawberry," he said.

"I'm just in shock, you don't expect that. I went straight to an ER, I was pretty worried.

"I got X-rays done and ended up getting some pretty severe abdominal pains. The pains in the stomach, it wasn't fun, and the anxiety behind it - not knowing what's happening - it's not a pleasant experience. "I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

Picture: Facebook/Joshua Gane
Picture: Facebook/Joshua Gane

A Woolworths spokesman said the brand had been "temporarily withdrawn".

"Woolworths takes food safety very seriously … Customers are advised to return these products for a full refund."



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