Alleged strawberry needle contaminator in court this morning

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE first person charged over the strawberry needle crisis is due to face a Brisbane court after spending the night behind bars.

The 50-year-old woman is expected to front Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning on seven charges of goods contamination, police say.

Health officials issued warnings in September after WA Police announced they were investigating 10 reports of needles found in strawberries.

Dozens more needle discoveries in strawberries, apples and other fruit in all six states sparked the months-long, multi-jurisdiction investigation.

Police say the accused woman faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted, as one charge alleges aggravation.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker said the investigation was “major and unprecedented … with a lot of complexities involved”.

“The Queensland Police Service has allocated a significant amount of resources to ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“While the investigation is far from over, I would like to acknowledge the tireless effort of our investigators as well as members from all other agencies across Australia who played a role.”

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association welcomed the woman’s arrest and called for copycats to face charges too.

“It was a crisis driven by social media and the only real victims were the strawberry growers, and to some extent other Australian fruit growers and exporters,” it said in a statement.

A South Australian man was charged in September over making a false strawberry contamination report to local police, while police have spoken to children in Western Australia and NSW over similar copycat incidents.

The crisis led to the State Government launching a bid to protect the strawberry industry, and unveiling a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of any ‘strawberry vandals’.

The Federal Government also stumped up $1 million for the industry and rushed through laws to see those responsible face up to 15 years behind bars.