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Queensland's strawberry growers react to needle contamination charges being dropped

Several members of the Queensland Strawberry Growers' Association have expressed disappointment after the case against a former farm worker accused of placing needles in strawberries in 2018 was dropped earlier this week.

The 2018 contamination scare resulted in a social media frenzy, with dozens of copycat cases popping p across Australia. For a time, some major supermarkets stopped stocking strawberries and thousands of tons of fruit ended up being dumped at the peak of the Queensland and New South Wales strawberry season.

Miss Trinh was set to face a four-week trial in the Brisbane District Court but Judge Michael Byrne yesterday told Miss Trinh's interpreters to relay to her: "The prosecution have indicated that they will no longer proceed against you with these charges. You are now discharged and you can leave the dock."

QGSA president Adrian Schultz said that, while industry members were "very disappointed that charges have been dropped" they "respected the legal process".

"There must be a good reason for it to happen but the impact that this had on many people's businesses and livelihoods should not be forgotten," Schultz told abc.net.au.

Berries Australia director Rachel Mackenzie said the one positive effect of the strawberry sabotage crisis had been "much greater cohesion within the industry with crisis management protocols".

According to Mackenzie, the sector had undergone massive changes. "Everyone is now hyper-vigilant about these issues and there have been increased efforts around traceability. These are risks that not just happen on a farm but [also] all through the supply chain, and one of the most significant risks is actually from copycats."

Since the crisis in 2018, the federal government has increased the maximum prison sentence for food-tampering from 10 to 15 years.


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