The Australian police on Sunday arrested and filed charges against a 50-year-old woman who contaminated strawberries with needles.
According to ABC News, the suspect is farm worker My Ut Trinh. She faces seven counts of contamination of goods.
Strawberries spiked with needles were first reported in Queensland, the third most populous state in Australia, on September 8 after a man, who consumed one of the contaminated berries was rushed to the hospital for severe abdominal pains.
The victim’s friend said that they also found another sewing needle lodged inside other strawberries after the incident. Reports of other needle-filled strawberries from other Australian states also emerged.
Authorities announced the safety risk on September 12.
Police warned people to slice the fruit before eating and Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offered a AUD$ 100,000 reward for information that could lead to the arrest of those responsible for deliberately putting needles in strawberries.
“Someone is trying to sabotage the industry but also in doing that, they are putting babies’ and children’s and families’ lives at risk,” Palaszczuk said in September, according to the Independent.
Following a coordinated investigation with government, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies, the Queensland Police Service revealed on Sunday that a suspect was finally arrested, albeit it provided few details and did not provide the possible motive for contaminating the fruits.
Trinh, who is set to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday, faces a three-year maximum penalty. The police said that a circumstance of aggravation will also be alleged, which would elevate jail time to up to 10 years if the woman is convicted, according to HuffPost.
“This is a major and unprecedented police investigation with a lot of complexities involved,” Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker. from the Drug and Serious Crime Group, said in the statement.
“The Queensland Police Service has allocated a significant amount of resources to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
The needle scare has prompted six brands, namely Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries, Oasis, Berry Obsession, and Berry Licious, to issue recalls of their product. Consumers avoided the fruit, which resulted in strawberries going to waste. The crisis threatened a multimillion-dollar industry.
Queensland Strawberry Growers Association Vice President Adrian Schultz thanked the police for their work after the arrest.
“We’re just grateful that they pursued and continued to pursue their lines of inquiry and have come up with this result,” he said. “This should put a full stop to this situation,” he added.