A 50-year-old woman has been arrested after fresh strawberries in Australia were found to contain needles.
Queensland police notified the public of a safety risk on September 12 after the contaminated punnets were discovered.One man was taken to hospital in September after swallowing one of the strawberries. The contamination spread to Perth, Tasmania and New Zealand.
A number of brands were said to be affected.
Officers say the arrest follows an ongoing “complex investigation” with coordination from government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The woman is expected to be charged later today, police said in a statement.
“A police task-force was established with officers from the State Crime Command coordinating the investigation together with detectives in a number of police districts in Queensland.
“Following an extensive investigation, officers arrested a 50-year-old woman this afternoon.
“The woman is expected to be charged this evening and appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court tomorrow.”
Magistrate Christine Roney said that while prosecutors were alleging My Ut Trinh was “motivated by spite or revenge” she would not consider granting bail for the woman until the reasons for her actions became clearer.
The scare was concentrated in Queensland state, where 77 incidents were reported, with 15 of them believed to be hoaxes or false complaints.
Trinh, 50, was the first person arrested and could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
A Vietnamese refugee who arrived by boat two decades ago and became an Australian citizen, Trinh was working as a supervisor of fruit pickers at the Berrylicious strawberry farm near Caboolture, north of Brisbane, when she allegedly inserted needles into the fruit between 2 and 5 September, the court was told.
Prosecutor Cheryl Tesch said it would be alleged in court that DNA matching Trinh’s was found on one of the needles discovered in a strawberry.
Trinh’s lawyer Michael Cridland withdrew a bail application, but said his client was not an unacceptable flight risk. She was remanded in custody until November 22.
A police investigation into the broader crisis is continuing.