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Wed, 12 Sep, 2018Danielle McCarthy

Urgent recall: Woolworths shoppers warned to throw out this product immediately

Urgent recall: Woolworths shoppers warned to throw out this product immediately

Woolworths has warned Australians to throw out two brands of strawberries after sewing needles were found in three punnets sold in Queensland and Victoria stores.

The recall was issued in Woolworths stores yesterday for Berry Obsession and Berrylicious strawberries purchased in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

It is believed the sewing needles were placed inside the strawberries by a disgruntled employee, with at least one person being hospitalised after eating the sabotaged strawberries.

Queensland Police Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence said investigators were looking at "all options and avenues of the packaging and processing of the strawberries".

However, he would not comment on the claim made by the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association (QSGA) that the needles were planted by an ex-employee.

"We're not going to speculate at this stage. We are in the early stages of the investigation," he said.

"That is a comment by the Queensland Strawberry Growers and we will talk with them to see if they have any information to assist us."

In a statement yesterday, the QSGA said: "The association is waiting on more information from Queensland Police on this matter and will update the Australian public as news becomes available to us.”

The incident was made known after Queensland’s Hoani Hearne, 21, discovered half of a needle inside a strawberry he had bitten into.

On Sunday, he bought the punnet from Strathpine Centre Woolworths, which is located 20km north of Brisbane.

His friend, Joshua Gane, shared a photo of the contaminated strawberry to Facebook.

 "Driving up to the coast when Hoani Hearne bites through a strawberry and swallows half a sewing needle,” he said.

"We then checked the other strawberries and found another sewing needle lodged inside one of them.

"We are now at the emergency room because he subsequently started experiencing severe abdominal pain.

"Just being a helpful member of the community and making sure your children don’t have to endure what we have had to experience. Please make your family and friends aware."

So far three punnets of strawberries have been found with sewing needles hidden inside, including two in Victoria’s Yarram and Sebastopol.

It is believed the strawberries all came from a farm in Queensland’s south-east.

Queensland Health issued a warning to the public regarding the dangerous contamination.

"I'm out here today to advise people if they've bought any strawberries in Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria since early last week, that they should dispose of them," Queensland Health's chief health officer Jeanette Young said.

"If someone were to swallow a sewing needle it could get caught up in their gut."

A Woolworths spokesperson said the supermarket took “food safety very seriously” and was working with authorities to investigate the incident.

“We have withdrawn Berry Obsession and Berry Luscious branded strawberries from sale while this incident is being investigated with our suppliers,” the spokesperson said.

“Customers are advised to return these products to their local Woolworths for a full refund.”

Mr Lawrence would not say at which point in the supply chain the berries had been contaminated and declined to name the farm involved.

"It's been some time for us to look at this sort of investigation, quite some time," he said.

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