9News.com.au

Strawberry contamination crisis proved Queensland spirit

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 19/12/2018 3:15:00 Rebecca Masters

a close up of a red fruit © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The strawberry contamination crisis that hit Queensland and much of the country in September, bringing growers to their knees and causing the destruction of tonnes of fruit, will be remembered for the community spirit it ignited in Queenslanders.

"You only had to see the lines of people in King George Square, hundreds of them queuing to get their hands on a famous Queensland strawberry sundae and you knew our farmers would be okay," TODAY reporter Jess Millward recalled.

On September 13, Millward interviewed one of the first victims, Hoani Hearne, live on the TODAY Show.

Hearne had swallowed half a needle biting into a contaminated strawberry purchased from a Woolworths store north of Brisbane.

He suffered severe abdominal pain and was treated at Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

a man standing next to a woman "Needles placed inside strawberries - it was just as bizarre as it was infuriating," Millward said.

"I recall thinking to myself 'what a strange thing to happen' and how lucky Hoane was he didn't get seriously ill.

"But more cases right across the country kept popping up and in the days that followed, images emerged of truckloads of fruit being dumped.

"People were scared to eat strawberries."

9News reporter Mia Glover was one of them.

"I replaced my morning strawberry muesli topping with frozen raspberries for several days, and told my husband to 'stay away from the strawberries for now'," Glover said.

a truck is parked in front of a body of water © Supplied

"But as heartbreaking footage of Queensland strawberry farmers dumping tonnes and tonnes of their produce, as well as grocery stores throwing the produce out or selling it cheap for 50 cents a punnet, started to pour into the newsroom, I realised I was part of the problem."

From that day on, Glover said, she joined thousands of Queenslanders buying strawberries in bulk.

Campaigns to "cut em up, don't cut em out" began spreading on social media alongside the hashtag #smashastrawb.

The Queensland government announced a $1 million assistance package for the strawberry industry and Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed a crackdown on sabotage and contamination offences.

a young boy eating a hot dog © 9NEWS

Millward said Queenslanders had begun to "rally like Queenslanders do best".

"Vision of fruit being thrown away was replaced by images of support; customers lining up to buy punnets and punnets direct from farmers. And then came the big Strawberry Sundae fundraiser in King George Square which raised more than $50,000 for growers."

Glover said it was clear Queenslanders weren't about to let the actions of a few ruin an industry the state relied on.

"Seeing lines of people at our farms waiting to buy berries, desperate to support our farmers in such a horrific crisis was inspiring," she said.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © 9NEWS

In total, 230 reports of contamination surfaced across the country, impacting 68 brands - of which 49 are in Queensland.

Of the 230 incidents, 186 included the use of sewing needles and 77 of those were in Queensland. Police believe 15 of the Queensland-based incidents were hoaxes or false reports.

It was two months before police would announce they'd made a breakthrough.

a close up of a piece of cake and ice cream © 9NEWS

My Ut Trinh, a former supervisor of the Berrylicious farm in Wamuran, north of Brisbane, has been arrested and charged with seven counts of contamination of goods.

"I was in court when My Ut Trinh was granted bail," Glover recalled.

"Her lawyer was concerned about vigilante attacks, and asked to suppress Trinh's bail address. The magistrate agreed.

a man wearing glasses © AAP

"What we know about Trinh is very little, but her motivation according to police, could be revenge.""

Police claim the 50-year-old Vietnamese migrant's DNA was found on a needle, located inside a strawberry. The court was told the DNA is "100 billion times likely to be that" of Trinh's.

a blurry image of a cat

The case remains before the courts, but Aussies have largely returned to their old habits.

"I'll always remember it as a time when we came together to support our farmers," Millward said.

"Like we ever really need an excuse to eat a scrumptious strawberry."
19. joulukuuta 2018 5:15:00 Categories: 9News.com.au RTBF info - belgique

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