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Strawberries? An unlikely target for intentional adulteration.
Strawberries? An unlikely target for intentional adulteration.
a truck dumping large amounts of strawberries
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Stephanie Chheang, a strawberry farmer in Australia, posted a video on Facebook of her family dumping strawberries they could not sell.

Australia's strawberry industry is facing an outbreak of intentional adulteration. One consumer found a needle in a strawberry and since then there have been more than 100 reported cases of consumers finding needles in strawberries. Authorities believe many of the cases are copycats. This scare has caused strawberry manufacturers to dump truckloads of inventory for fear of contamination and multiple countries have halted imports of Australian strawberries.

"Intentional adulteration of a food or beverage with the intent to cause harm can happen anywhere along the food supply chain and anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, an attack happened this week with needles in strawberries," said Stephanie Lopez, Vice President of Food Safety Services America at AIB International. "All parties along the food supply chain, including agriculture, processing, distribution, and retail can take measures to mitigate the risk of having an attack through a well-developed and dynamic Food Defense Program. It’s important that the industry collaborate to combat these criminals."

In an effort to regain public trust, strawberry manufacturers have began scanning their products through metal detectors. The AP reported:

Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia president Neil Handasyde said growers had received requests from major retailers and insurance companies to scan fruit for needles. "As an industry we are sure that (the needles) are not coming from the farm, but we’re trying to get confidence into consumers that when they buy...strawberries, that there isn’t going to be anything other than strawberries in there and they’re safe to eat,'" Handasyde told ABC. "Industry experts are looking at lots of different ways of tackling this issue. There’s been metal detectors purchased and tamper-proof packaging looked at," he said.

This incident reemphasizes the importance of having a robust Food Defense plan in place. For more information about metal detectors and foreign materials in food products, please check out the Food First blog post below.

Tip of the Week: Keeping Foreign Material Out of Consumer Products

Foreign material devices are a vital part of food production. If a food product including a piece of foreign material is released into the consumer market and there is an issue, it can resonate just as much with consumers as foodborne pathogen contamination. Along with the consequences of a recall, the consumer's "word-of-mouth" spread can damage a company’s reputation and sales. Consumers often remember these types of events and the food company behind the issue.

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