Police arrest strawberry industry worker over fruit sabotage

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SYDNEY (AP) — Police have made their first arrest in the cases of strawberry sabotage in Australia, in which sewing needles were found in fruit sold in six states.

Police in Queensland state say they’ve arrested 50-year-old My Ut Trinh and charged her with seven counts of goods contamination.

Detective John Walker of the State Crime Command said she worked in the strawberry industry near the town of Caboolture, north of Brisbane.

Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper reported she worked as a supervisor of fruit pickers at a strawberry farm.

She was due to appear in court Monday. Each count against her carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

No injuries were reported throughout the scare, but Australia’s multimillion-dollar strawberry industry was devastated after recalls of the fruit were ordered. It also spread to New Zealand, where major food distributors took Australian strawberries off supermarket shelves.

Walker said 230 incidents were reported nationwide, impacting 68 strawberry brands. The scare was concentrated in Queensland state where 77 incidents were reported, with 15 of them believed to be hoaxes or false complaints.

Walker said the investigation was continuing.

“This has probably been one of the most trying investigations that I’ve been part of. It’s a fairly unique,” he said.

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