SINGAPORE: NTUC FairPrice said on Monday (Sep 24) that it has halted all strawberry imports from Australia, following recent reports of needles found in the fruit.
Australian police have received reports of more than 100 alleged incidents of pins and needles being found in fruit since the scare began in Queensland state earlier this month.
Replying to queries from Channel NewsAsia, an NTUC FairPrice spokesperson said Australian strawberries from previous batches of imports remain available, but will not be replenished when they are sold out.
"As a responsible retailer, FairPrice takes food safety and quality matters very seriously," said the spokesperson in the statement.
"While the authorities have not issued any recall for the product from Australia, we have made the decision to halt all strawberry imports from Australia from today, as a precautionary measure."
Sales of strawberries have slowed down by about 10 per cent since the reports came to light, said the spokesperson, adding that FairPrice has not received reports of similar incidents in Singapore.
"We continue to monitor the situation closely, and our food safety protocols and procedures are also in place should we need to recall any products, in compliance with the authorities’ advisories."
The spokesperson added that FairPrice practises diversified sourcing by importing strawberries from several countries, including Korea, New Zealand and USA. This is to ensure the supermarket is not reliant on one single source of supply.
Meanwhile, Sheng Siong supermarket said its Australian exporters have set up metal detectors to check every punnet of strawberry.
"So far, we have not received any customer feedback and we have not seen any impact on strawberry sales," said the spokesperson, adding that it will work closely with suppliers to monitor the situation.
PUBLIC SHOULD REFRAIN FROM SPECULATION: AVA
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has also released a statement to urge the public to refrain from speculation and not to panic.
This comes after Twitter user Dennis Tang posted a photo of a piece of metal allegedly found in a pack of strawberries.
He has since deleted the tweet, saying that his intention was to warn his friends, as well as to "get the relevant authorities to do the necessary investigations and checks".
"The brand of strawberries mentioned in the tweet is not amongst the six implicated brands in Australia," said the authority, adding that it has contacted the importer for the brand of strawberries mentioned in the tweet to follow up on the case.
"Importers are also responsible for ensuring that the food they import is safe for consumption," said AVA.
The brands that have been recalled by Australian authorities are: The Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Donnybrook Berries, Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis.
AVA said that as a precautionary measure, consumers who have purchased strawberries from Australia can cut the fruits into small pieces before consuming them.