The strawberry contamination crisis shows no sign of abating, with a young girl biting into a sabotaged strawberry at her Perth school on Tuesday.
Detectives received an anxious call from Burrendah Primary School in Willetton at 10.30am on Tuesday morning, worried a female student had been injured.
The Year 2 student bit into a strawberry and felt a needle – the fifth case reported to WA police in two days.
The student’s mother said the girl had packed her own lunchbox, and told her teacher immediately after biting into the strawberry.
She was not injured but “in shock”, her mother said.
It’s the sixth reported case in WA, after an elderly couple said they discovered a sewing needle buried inside a strawberry they had bought from a Maddington greengrocer on Monday.
The Kimmy’s brand berries were grown at a farm in Gnangara, in Perth’s north.
“I feel very angry and very upset because that’s not our fault,” Kimmy’s grower My Doan said.
“If we grow a strawberry, how is there a needle inside?”
In York, a father found a needle when he was washing the fruit on Monday.Three more cases have been revealed in Kelmscott, Bull Creek and Spearwood.
Premier Mark McGowan described those responsible as “evil”, announcing a $100,000 reward to catch the culprits.
“To the people doing this, they are dropkicks, they are committing criminal offences, they are liable to 20 years in prison in Western Australia,” he said.
WA strawberry growers are confident the needles aren’t coming from their farms, but they are deploying extra security as a cautionary measure.
Distributors are also beginning to use expensive metal detectors, undertaking a level of screening unprecedented in Western Australia.
Since Monday, the team at Allstate Produce has scanned 150,000 strawberry punnets and have yet to find any needles.
Now, WA growers are trying to salvage whats left of their industry, throwing open their gates and encouraging people to “pick your own and eat your heart out.”
The Queensland Government has announced a $1 million assistance package for strawberry growers there, and WA growers are calling for similar help.
In the meantime, the industry is urging people to continue buying strawberries – but to wash them and cut into them before eating.