Neerabup strawberry farm opens its gates

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Consumers who want to help strawberry growers survive the needle crisis are being advised to wash and cut the fruit before consumption. Picture: Anita McInnes

A NEERABUP strawberry farm is inviting people to pick their own strawberries during the school holidays while the WA health authorities say as a precaution all fruit should be washed and cut before eating.

In a post on Facebook shared by City of Wanneroo councillor Paul Miles Chad Tran from the Landsdale Residents Association said there would be no entry fees for people to enter the strawberry farm on 1920 Wanneroo Rd in Neerabup and people could eat while they picked.

He said a box of up to 3kg of strawberries would cost $7.

While the Department of Health together with relevant local governments, is continuing to investigate strawberries implicated in the recent needle scare as reported by WA Police and SA Police the Department of Primary Industrial and Regional Development (DPIRD) is advising the industry about the support services available to growers and their families at this time.

According to DPIRD the federal government through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has announced additional funding through the farm household allowance (FHA) to help farming families doing it tough.

Farmers can find out if they qualify for new lump sum payments by calling the Farmer Assistance Hotline 132 316 or by visiting humanservices.gov.au

The Rural Financial Counselling Service WA provides free financial advice to producers who are suffering financial hardship and have no alternative sources of impartial financial information.

If you are a primary producer use the freecall number 1800 612 004 for free financial counselling services.

DPIRD said the WA strawberry industry was worth $88 million annually.

The needle scare first started in Queensland but then spread to WA and SA with reports saying strawberries from a Gingin strawberry farm had also been caught up in the crisis.

Department of Health environmental health executive director Jim Dodds said the department and local governments were thoroughly investigating the integrity of the food supply chain – including visiting strawberry fields and packing sheds to review production, picking, handling and distribution processes.

“As part of this process, the department’s food unit is reviewing strawberry food safety systems, sourcing distribution information, and identifying whether there are any common links between the farms (i.e. are any of them packed on the same premises),” he said.

“Food safety and the health of consumers is a priority for the Department of Health, and we are working closely with industry to ensure that the supply chain process is sound.”

The Department is also working collaboratively with WA Police and DPIRD, at a state level as well as national response teams to address the issue.

Mr Dodds reassured consumers that strawberries remain safe for purchase and consumption but all fruit should be washed and cut before eating.

If people come across a contaminated strawberry, they should notify WA Police on 131 444.

Anyone who believes they have eaten a contaminated strawberry should seek medical attention.

On Wednesday, September 19 WA Police confirmed they investigating 10 incidents of needles being found in strawberries.

WA Police said anyone who locates anything suspicious can contact their local police, call 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

The McGowan Government has offered a reward of $100,000 for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the strawberry contamination incidents.