Industry responds to strawberry crisis

20 September, 2018 by
Annabelle Cloros

The strawberry saga has reached fever pitch with more than 100 cases of contaminated fruit being reported to police.

Sewing needles and metal objects have been found in strawberries with isolated cases concerning apples and bananas also reported.

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The strawberry industry has been hit hard, with stock pulled from shelves across the country as new cases continue to emerge.

Western Australia has been caught up in the scare, but Queensland producers are bearing the brunt, with up to 150 growers — only six of which have been affected by the tampering — being forced to dump masses of fruit due to widespread consumer fears.

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It’s reported the wholesale price of strawberries has been slashed by more than 50 per cent, prompting growers to purchase expensive metal detectors to safeguard their stock.

WA grower Allstates Farms forked out $30,000 on equipment to detect foreign metal objects.

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“Strawberries are scanned and it will stop if there is any metal present,” quality control manager Manjeet Singh told The West Australian.

“All existing stock and new stock coming in will all be going through the scanner, punnet by punnet, tray by tray, then each tray will be sealed with a security sticker.

“We are doing what we can to support our growers and restore confidence to get people eating strawberries again.”

Hospitality businesses are coming together to support the strawberry industry, with Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing creating a strawberry and currant kettle sour beer and a strawberry and banana cider.

“I feel bad taking the strawberries at the cost we got them for, but that’s still money in their pockets and we’ll take whatever we can get to help them out,” senior brewer Jarrett Bravo told ABC.

“Without farmers, you wouldn’t have beer, so for us to help farmers out, it’s a big thing.”

KOI Dessert Bar in Sydney’s Chippendale is continuing to use strawberries in their products, posting on social media to show their support.

“It’s such a shame to see tons of strawberries being wasted due to the contamination,” a KOI spokesperson told Hospitality. “As a business in the food industry, it’s important to appreciate where our produce comes from. It’s a continued mutual symbiosis relationship really, we’ve got each other’s backs!”

Sumo Salad in Bunbury, Western Australia, is selling cups of strawberries for $1.50 along with strawberry punnets, with other Sumo Salad outlets in WA considering doing the same.

The famous Ekka strawberry sundaes will also make a special comeback to support growers. The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation will use surplus strawberries and sell the desserts at pop-up stalls in the Brisbane CBD next week.

Australians are being urged to cut ’em up not cut ’em out, with #smashastrawb trending on social media.

Image credit: The New Daily