South Australia invests in metal detectors after strawberry needle scare

posted by Francis Churchill
8 October 2018

South Australia’s main fresh produce wholesale market will be given up to $50,000 to install metal detectors to prevent fruit contamination.

The government of South Australia (SA) said it will provide the South Australian Produce Market the funding to boost consumer confidence in the strawberry industry in time for the state’s growing season.

A temporary metal detector has already been placed in the market following last month’s food scare, in which metal needles were found in strawberries for sale in all six states. The incident reportedly left at least one person hospitalised.

Steven Marshall, SA premier, said the industry had been “buoyed” by public support, and the metal detectors would be installed to ensure demand for strawberries continued.

Marshall said: “With the local strawberry season still weeks away, the industry is optimistic about the current wave of support from consumers buying strawberries… We must not let the actions of a few put us off buying local strawberries.

“Cut them up, don’t cut them out’,” he added, referencing public health advice to cut up strawberries before eating them.

Separately, retailer Coles has announced it is investing in automated warehouses to modernise its supply chain as it prepares to separate itself from its parent company Wesfarmers.

The firm said it has partnered with logistics company Witron Australia to develop two automated distribution centres over the next five years that are expected to provide “significant productivity improvements over the medium to long term”.

Steven Cain, managing director of Coles, said: “The investment we are making in this technology is expected to lower supply chain costs, provide safer working environments and enhance our business competitiveness.”

As part of the change, Coles said it is planning to close a number of existing distribution centres and has set aside between $130-150m before 2019 to pay for redundancies and lease exit costs.

Wesfarmer announced last week it was planning to demerger Coles, while maintaining a minority stake of 15% in the company, as it focuses on high growth businesses in its portfolio. Coles’ separation will immediately make it one of Australia's top 30 listed companies and make it a market leader in fresh food and groceries.

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