The problem came to light from a Facebook post earlier this month by a man who said his friend had swallowed part of a needle hidden in a strawberry and went to the hospital. This Facebook user posted a warning about Berry Obsession strawberries purchased from Woolworths Strathpine Centre in Moreton Bay, North of Brisbane. The incidents caused something of a nationwide hysteria, and led to more than 230 copycat incidents and false reports of similar strawberry spikings. On 17 September 2018, a 62-year-old woman suffering from a mental illness was cautioned after she had allegedly contaminated a banana with a metal object at a supermarket in Maryborough, Queensland. Queensland Police stated the incident was not linked to the contamination crisis. On 18 September 2018, New South Wales Police announced needles had been discovered in bananas and apples in two separate incidents in the Sydney area. Indications are that of the 200 or so instances looked at by police, the vast majority was hoax or prank.

These reports delivered a gut punch to industry, set grocery-shoppers on edge and left police struggling to find needles in a haystack of copycat pranks. The cause of the initial scare and the scale of the problem remain a mystery. Ultimately, 68 strawberry brands were affected, with 49 of them in Queensland.

The phenomenon is putting the livelihoods of hardworking Australians at risk, and is scaring children. The governments of Western Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland are all offering a reward of 100,000 Australian dollars, or $72,000, for information. The issue is fast turning into one of Australia’s biggest ever food scares that has halted exports to New Zealand and forced at least one strawberry farm to start dumping its fruit at the peak of the season. Another farm is installing metal detectors.

Any incidents of self-contamination or copycat incidents impact is a serious offense and carries 10 years in jail. The strawberry industry is worth A$160 million ($115 million) with most of the fruit consumed locally. While six brands have been directly affected and withdrawn from sale, consumers have begun to shun the fruit altogether. Queensland state as the country’s largest strawberry producing region is particularly vulnerable to a sustained downturn in the market and would set aside A$1 million to help farmers survive the season.

It was a crisis driven by social media and the only real victims were the strawberry growers, and to some extent other Australian fruit growers and exporters. There was never an issue with the quality, integrity and freshness of local grown strawberries. Officials began urging people to cut up their strawberries before eating them. People who make claims of tampering via social media instead of contacting the authorities are questionable and should be brought to account.


  1. HYSTERIA/exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people.
  2. FRENZY/a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior.
  3. MANIA/mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity.
  4. DEMENTIA/a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.
  5. INSANITY/the state of being seriously mentally ill; madness.
  6. PSYCHOSIS/a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.


  1. The mass (1) that characterizes the week before Christmas takes place regularly.
  2. I knew why she has worked herself into such a (2) of rage.
  3. He suffered from bouts of (5) due to too much stress from work.
  4. No (3) of car has urged him to get so big name in this industry.
  5. Symptoms of (4) are now becoming so popular in every area in life.
  6. During a period of (6) a person’s thoughts and perceptions are so disturbed that the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real.


  1. JOKE/a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline.
  2. JEST/a thing said or done for amusement.
  3. WITTICISM/a witty remark.
  4. QUIP/a verbal equivocation.
  5. PUN/a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word.
  6. INNUENDO/an allusive or oblique remark or hint typically a suggestive or disparaging one.
  7. HOAX/a humorous or malicious deception.
  8. PRANK/a practical joke or mischievous act.
  9. JAPE/a practical joke.
  10. BLUFF/an attempt to deceive someone into believing that one can or will do something.
  11. CHARADE/an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance.
  12. MASQUERADE/a false show or pretense.
  13. DISSIMULATION/concealment of one’s thoughts, feelings, or character.
  14. SUBTERFUGE/deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal.
  15. CHICANERY/the use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose.
  16. SHENANIGAN/secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering.
  17. SKULDUGGERY/underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; trickery.
  18. MONEYSHINES/mischievous behavior


  1. People usually have (2) about administrative gaffes.
  2. Our neighbors have recognized the plan as a (7).
  3. Please just ignore it a stupid and childish (8).
  4. What are the more details of that childish (9) beside the words scrabbling on the water closet wall?
  5. They got the offer denounced as a (10).
  6. The implied unity was nothing more than a (11) by these politicians.
  7. The public figure’s (12) was ending when he was arrested.
  8. Can you see any attempt of (13) from him?
  9. The widespread financial (16) had ruined the fortunes of that tycoon.
  10. He was well known to be the owner of the firm that investigates commercial (17)
  11. They were in a mood to tell (1) in the party.
  12. In his speech he likes using (5) to clarify the delicacy.
  13. The news said that was the underhanded person who had schemed corruption and political (15) behind closed doors.
  14. She is always making sly (6) to prove her power.
  15. Students get familiar to the (18) in the class.
  16. Police as detected the (14) used by the thief to make escape.
  17. We were surprised at his (4) at being gluttonous.
  18. He roared himself with laughter at his own (3).


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