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Metal Detectors For Qld Strawberry Farm As Industry Suffers

A Queensland strawberry farmer will install metal detectors to check his produce as the industry reels following the discovery of sewing needles in punnets of the fruit.

Glass House Mountains farmer Leonard Smith said that the safety measure would cost him about $30,000, but would hopefully get the rest of this season's fruit back on supermarket shelves.

"I need to get them in service in weeks so I can pay some debt off so I don't have to have some uncomfortable conversations,'' Mr Smith told The Courier-Mail.

However, he said there was no guarantee they would work if the contamination was occurring offsite.

Mr Smith's farm was forced to burn off 500,000 unsellable plants on the weekend as it was cheaper to kill them than pick them.

He said other growers were being forced to do the same.

Sewing needles have been found in strawberries in all six states, with New Zealand announcing this week it would pull the Australian-grown fruit from its supermarket shelves.

A health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz said "commercial terrorism" was bringing an industry to its knees.

"I'm angry for all the associated people, it's the farmers, the people who supply them, the packaging people, the truckies with families to support, who suddenly lose their jobs ... it's far-reaching," he said on Monday.

Queensland Police's investigation into the contamination was further complicated this week when a 62-year-old woman was caught putting a needle into a banana in a shop in Mackay, in an apparent copycat act.

The woman, who is understood to have mental health issues, was given a warning and referred to appropriate support services.

"The community is reminded that contaminating food is treated as a serious offence and a threat to public safety," a police spokesperson said.

"All reported incidents will be investigated thoroughly."


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