'Disgruntled Employee' Accused of Putting Sewing Needles in Strawberries: Cops

Strawberries
Getty

A disgruntled former worker in Australia has been accused of purposely putting sewing needles in strawberries, according to police. 

Consumers in Queensland have been told to return or discard fruit due to the harmful contamination after a customer was rushed to a hospital after swallowing part of a needle in a strawberry. 

Hoani Hearne, 21, was rushed to the hospital Sunday with "severe abdominal pains," according to a friend, Joshua Gane, who posted about the incident on Facebook

Just posting this as a warning to anyone that has bought strawberries (Berry Obsessions) from Woolworths recently....

Posted by Joshua Gane on Saturday, September 8, 2018

“We then checked the other strawberries and found another sewing needle lodged inside one of them,” Gane added. Hearne’s status inside the hospital is unknown. 

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association believes a former employee at the supermarket chain Woolworths put needles inside the fruit, according to reports. 

“At this time, have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated the occurrence, wherein sewing needles were found in a number of strawberries, in Queensland and Victoria,” the organization said in a statement. 

At this time, the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association have reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may...

Posted by Queensland Strawberries on Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Police said they believe the contamination was done deliberately to hurt people. 

"[It's been done] obviously to injure somebody," Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence of the State Crime Command told ABC Australia

Woolworths have said they have taken the contaminated strawberries off the shelves as the investigation continues. 

"Customers are advised to return these products to their local Woolworths for a full refund," a spokesperson told ABC Australia.

Police believe they have contained the threat, which was first reported over the weekend. The strawberry stock should be replaced by Thursday and will be safe to consume. 

However, police advise cutting up strawberries to be safe. 

On Thursday, police said they feared there may be copycat culprits as a needle was found in another batch of strawberries. 

RELATED STORIES

Crimes So Shocking You May Never Sleep Again: View the Photos

Amid Recall, How to Make Sure Your Eggs Are Safe to Eat

Carolina Reaper: Could the 'Hottest Chili Pepper' Make You Sick?