Needle contamination hits WA, affects exports

FROM TODAY the federal Department of Agriculture has enforced a nil tolerance of metal contaminants in fresh strawberries as an interim control measure to help stop contaminated strawberries entering the export supply chain.
Needle contamination hits WA, affects exports Needle contamination hits WA, affects exports Needle contamination hits WA, affects exports Needle contamination hits WA, affects exports Needle contamination hits WA, affects exports

Sabotaged strawberry crops continue to cause headaches for producers.

Kristy Moroney

In order for strawberry export permits to be approved, exporters will be required to provide an extra assurance to the department that their consignment is free from metal contaminants.

Interim control measures include an assurance that the fruit will go through an effective metal screening process (metal detectors/X-ray) prior to export, or on-farm metal screening with measures to ensure product security has been maintained post screening.
Visual inspection alone is not acceptable according to the interim Department of Agriculuture control measures.

These measures apply to fresh strawberry exports to all markets, and will remain in place until the risk of metal contaminants has been appropriately managed.

The measures will not apply to grain or livestock producers.

Australia has a long-standing agricultural trade reputation to uphold, and the department's role is to facilitate the safe trade of agricultural commodities.

Industry has been advised of these changes, along with relevant state and territory authorities.

At this time, with the source and cause of contamination unknown, these measures are necessary to provide assurance for our trading partners that Australia's export strawberries are free of metal contaminants.

The changes to strawberry exports come as Western Australia is the latest state to report needle contamination.

The WA Police Force is investigating reports of needles being located in strawberries in WA, and the government will pay a reward of $100,000 for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the current strawberry contamination incidents.

WA's strawberry industry provides about $88 million a year into the State's economy and it is vital that Western Australians continue to support local growers, despite these incidents.

Premier Mark McGowan said the industry was currently in its peak period and strawberries could still be purchased provided they are cut up before consuming.

"It is more important than ever that the WA community gets behind our State's strawberry growers and buys local," Minister McGowan said.