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Ex strawberry farm employee appears in court over contamination

bigstock-A-Double-Headed-Strawberry-Whe-255438652A former Queensland strawberry farm employee accused of planting needles in the fruit appeared in court in Brisbane today.

My Ut Trinh was charged on Sunday with seven counts of contamination of goods – between September 2 to 5 – with intent to cause economic loss.

The first discovery of needles in strawberries was on September 9, and Trinh knew she was a person of interest from the 12th, the court heard.

Trinh’s lawyer Michael Cridland made a bail application but withdrew it after magistrate Christine Roney advised it was “premature” because the motivation behind the alleged contamination was still unclear.

“The case that was put is that she was motivated by some spite or revenge,” Roney said.

Trinh, a former refugee who arrived in Australia by boat more than two decades ago, will remain in custody until her next hearing later in November.

The accused faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted, as one charge alleges aggravation.

Earlier on Monday, Detective John Walker told reporters in Brisbane that Trinh was an employee in the strawberry industry in the Caboolture area.

Police began investigating in September when sewing needles were first found in fruit, with a further 230 incidents ultimately reported nationwide impacting 68 strawberry brands.

The investigation is not over, with further investigative strategies being undertaken, he said.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association welcomed the 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.

In September the Queensland government announced a $1 million funding boost for the industry following the crisis.

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