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Prosecutors drop charges in strawberry tampering incident involving needles

Charges against a woman accused of putting needles in strawberries in 2018 in Australia have been dropped.

My Ut Trinh, an ex-farm worker, had been charged with contamination of goods and was scheduled to go on trial in Brisbane District Court.

Local media quoted Judge Michael Byrne telling Trinh’s interpreters that the prosecution would no longer proceed against her with the charges. News.au.com reported the action was dropped “because it was unlikely she would be convicted at trial, prosecutors say.”

Outside court, defense lawyer Nick Dore thanked Trinh’s supporters and said it was the right decision, according to reports.

In September 2018, reports of food tampering started involving sewing needles in strawberries. Initially affecting Queensland, it spread to involve multiple tampering of strawberries and other fruit across the country.

More than 200 food tampering reports were made nationally. Only a few were believed by authorities to be associated with the original incident with most thought to be hoaxes or copycat events.

Implicated strawberries were removed from sale and stronger penalties were introduced for food tampering plus stricter conditions for strawberry export.

A Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) report on the incident in 2019 made seven recommendations.

It found the government’s response to the food tampering was timely but communication between different agencies needed to be improved.