Australia

‘Vindicated’: Charges dropped against woman accused of strawberry needle contamination

A woman accused of sparking a national food safety panic when needles were found inside strawberries has had all charges against her dropped.

Former strawberry farm supervisor My Ut Trinh, 51, was due to stand trial charged with food contamination offences.

However, the start of the Brisbane District Court trial was delayed after two days of legal argument and Ms Trinh was told on Wednesday that prosecutors had dropped all charges.

“The prosecution have indicated that they will no longer proceed against you with these charges,” Justice Michael Byrne said.

“You are now discharged and you can leave the dock.”

In this supplied undated image obtained in September 2018, a thin piece of metal is seen among a punnet of strawberries.

QLD Police via AAP

Outside court Ms Trinh and supporters embraced and wiped away tears.

“Thank you. I don’t know how to talk. I no talk but I work my job nearly 20 years, I eat fruit every day,” she told AAP.

“I no work for almost three years.”

Supporters said Ms Trinh had been separated from the world for three years since being charged.

“She has been so hard done by, it has been horrific,” supporter Mark Ellis said

“We are very happy with the outcome.

“This had taken a massive toll on her whole life. She has been too scared to go anywhere or do anything.

“It’s been incredibly hard for all of us. We never believe it, right from the start.”

Outside court, lawyer Nick Dore said Ms Trinh had been vindicated and begged for a chance at a normal life.

“To everyone who believed in her during this period, she wants to thank the barristers and to all the friends and family who for the last two-and-a-half years have been providing support to her and believing in her innocence,” Mr Dore said.

“She sees today as being a complete vindication.”

Mr Dore said dropping the charges was “the right decision” considering the evidence that was produced throughout the course of a “long and convoluted” prosecution.

Ms Trinh had worked at Berrylicious in her hometown of Caboolture, north of Brisbane, between 2 and 7 September, 2018, when prosecutors previously alleged she inserted needles into the fruit.

She had been charged with seven counts of contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss.

Growers were forced to destroy entire crops with financial losses estimated at about $160 million.

The first needle was discovered on 9 September, 2018 when a man bit into a contaminated strawberry he bought at a supermarket.

As more needles were discovered around the country – with many believed to have been planted by copycats – strawberries were stripped from shelves.

Police have said 230 needle contamination incidents were ultimately reported nationwide, affecting 68 strawberry brands.

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