The Devastating Reality Of The Strawberry Sabotage Crisis
As the saga of contaminated fruit widens, growers are watching their produce -- and their livelihoods -- turn to waste before their eyes.
Mountains of strawberries were filmed being dumped on a farm in Queensland in the wake of a crisis that has seen sewing needles found in punnets of the fruit across several Australian states.
Stephanie Chheang says her mother and stepfather work for Donnybrook Berries -- one brand affected by the scare that was on Friday pulled from Australian shelves.
"This here is worth more than you could ever imagine and within three days we lost it all," Chheang wrote on Facebook, telling The Courier Mail the farm was forced to destroy the stock due to the recall.
"This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family."
Needles were first found in strawberry punnets across two states two weeks ago. Since then, at least six more brands are believed to have been contaminated, prompting a mass recall and one of New Zealand's two major food chains to stop stocking Australian products.
Growers in Queensland and West Australia fear the crisis is bringing the multi-million dollar industry to its knees, as the tragic personal impacts emerge.
"My mum Leena Lee Cufari and my step dad has worked years to build this empire they're sitting on now, they put all their money and effort in to build such a successful business," Chheang said.
"They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting."
Chheang said her mother "works through the day" to control their shed and 250 employees to ensure the produce is "packed to perfection".
She said Donnybrook Berries would be adding metal detectors and other safety equipment -- a measure at least one other Queensland grower will be taking.
Glass House Mountains farmer Leonard Smith said the safety measure would cost him about $30,00 but would hopefully get the rest of this season's fruit back on the shelves.
The Queensland government has also come to the financial aid of the state's growers, after announcing a reward for information on the contamination scare on Sunday.
Premier Annastacia Palazczuk on Tuesday said $1 million would go towards promoting the quality of Queensland-grown strawberries and look at ways to boost the integrity of the supply chain to get farmers through the season.
"The sabotage of our strawberry industry is not just an attack on hard-working growers and workers, but it reaches into almost every home and school lunch box," she told Parliament.
"The community needs to come together and help police catch those responsible and restore our industry to the place of pride it deserves."
While a health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, a campaign has emerged on Twitter encouraging people to #smashastrawb.