Australian prosecutors drop needles in strawberries indicted against woman

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CANBERRA, July 14 (Reuters) – An Australian court on Wednesday ordered the release of a woman accused of triggering a serious food crisis by contaminating strawberries with sewing needles in 2018, after prosecutors announced the abandonment prosecution.

The A $ 160 million ($ 119.4 million) strawberry industry was rocked in September 2018 after nearly 200 complaints about sewing needles found in strawberries and other fruits.

Several large supermarkets have pulled the fruit as shoppers abandoned their purchases, forcing some producers to throw the fruit amid warnings of widespread bankruptcy.

My Ut Trinh, a former farm worker in Queensland, was charged within weeks with seven counts of contaminating goods with intent to cause economic loss.

But after two days of hearings at the start of his trial, prosecutors said they would not pursue the case against Trinh. They did not give a reason.

“The prosecution has indicated that it will no longer prosecute you with these charges,” Judge Michael Byrne said.

“You are now demobilized and you can leave the platform.”

Speaking after the charges were dropped, Trinh thanked his supporters.

“Thank you. I can’t speak. I don’t speak but I have been doing my job for almost 20 years,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

But she added: “I haven’t worked for almost three years.”

($ 1 = AU $ 1.3403)

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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