SINGAPORE: Hundreds of Australians took to social media on Tuesday (Sep 18) urging others to continue buying and consuming strawberries, as the recent discovery of sewing needles pierced in the fruit threatened to put local farmers out of business.
Using the #SmashAStrawb hashtag on Twitter, netizens - several of them politicians - encouraged Australians to cut up their strawberries to check that they are safe, instead of throwing them away or avoiding them altogether.
A Member of Parliament in Queensland said she would be sharing "secret family strawberry recipes" in an effort to support the strawberry industry. Deb Frecklington's first contribution was the recipe for "Grandma Stillers Strawberry Jam", which required 1kg of strawberries, mashed up with a potato masher.
Others showed off the different ways strawberries can be enjoyed, including in cakes and cocktails, and even on pizza.
Political reporter Jessica Strutt shared a photo of a strawberry daiquiri on her Twitter page, with the caption: "So many options to help our local strawberry growers combat this needle scare. Get on board people."
She also uploaded a video of MPs enjoying cut-up strawberries, saying: "State MPs are urging West Australians to keep eating our locally grown strawberries and to cut them up before consuming to ensure they’re needle-free."
"IT IS JUST SO UPSETTING"
What started out as a handful of cases of needles found pierced into strawberries has now become one of Australia's biggest food scares, prompting the recall of six brands of strawberries.
There have been at least 20 reported cases in New South Wales alone, said police, and an apple was found pierced with a needle in the Sydney area.
Australian police warned that those responsible face 10 years in jail.
Exports to New Zealand have been halted and at least one strawberry farm has dumped its fruit at the peak of the season. Another farm is installing metal detectors, local media reported.
Facebook user Stephanie Ccheang posted a video which she said was taken at her family's farm, Donnybook Berries, of masses of strawberries being dumped because "the markets wouldn't take (them)".
"This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family. This here is a video of our strawberries being dumped, this here is worth more then you could ever imagine and within three days we lost it all," read the caption accompanying the video, which had been viewed more than three million times by Monday.
"My mum Leena Lee Cufari and my stepdad have worked years to build the empire they’re sitting on now, they put all their money and effort in to build such a successful business. They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting.
"My mum works day through to the night, controlling the shed and her 250 employees, making sure her strawberries are packed to perfection," she added. "This will not stop my family from doing what they do best, if anything they’re going to do better. I thank everyone who supports us and all the other farmers who were affected by this horrible issue."
The Queensland state government has said it is setting aside A$1 million (S$987,000) to help growers survive the season, and is offering a A$100,000 reward for any information that leads to the capture and conviction of the needle culprits.