Metal detectors for Qld strawberry farm

RESPONSE: Metal detectors will be used at a Queensland strawberry farm in response to the needle scare.
RESPONSE: Metal detectors will be used at a Queensland strawberry farm in response to the needle scare.

A QUEENSLAND strawberry farmer will install metal detectors to check his produce as the industry deals with the fallout from the discovery of sewing needles in punnets of the fruit.

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

However, he said the detectors wouldn't 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 destroy them than pick them.

"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.

He said other growers were being forced to do the same, with others cutting back on staff in the wake of the nationwide strawberry contamination.

One farmer from the Atherton Tablelands says he has had to lay off 15 employees while his business tries to bounce back.

But he says locals in the region are rallying to help farmers by buying fruit at the farm gate.

"Since it started the public support here at the farm is brilliant. They've gone out of their way to come up and actually buy here," he told ABC radio.

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.

Queensland Police's investigation into the contamination was further complicated when a 62-year-old woman was caught sticking 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."

Australian Associated Press

This story Metal detectors for Qld strawberry farm first appeared on Redland City Bulletin.