The Prince Edward Island Potato Board says the recent potato tampering case in that province “has left our industry feeling shocked, and is unacceptable for ourselves and the general public.”
Members of the PEIPB joined police officials at a press conference in Charlottetown on Nov. 10 to announce they are seeking the public’s help in identifying suspects involved in the case.
RCMP in P.E.I. are investigating seven incidents of food tampering after needles were found in potatoes originating from Linkletter Farms in Summerside, P.E.I.
Greg Donald, general manager of the board, said there’s been an overwhelming response from the P.E.I. potato producing community to provide help in order to get this matter resolved as soon as possible.
“To encourage anyone with knowledge concerning this attack on food safety to come forward, the Prince Edward Island potato industry has established a fund to cover a reward of up to $50,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for inserting sewing needles into potatoes of Linkletter Farms Ltd. which were destined for human consumption,” said Donald.
A PEIBP press release states that once a conviction has been obtained, an independent panel will determine eligibility for payment from the reward fund. Information provided anonymously is not eligible for the reward, which is in effect for tips received up until Jan. 31.
RCMP media relations spokesperson Sgt. Leanne Butler said at the press conference that to the best of her knowledge, more than 800,000 pounds of potatoes have either been destroyed or will not be marketed by Linkletter Farms. She said an X-ray process has been implemented at the operation, and that further details on affected potato volumes will be made known at a later stage.
The approximately 250 farming operations represented by the PEIPB will contribute financially to make the reward possible. “The Island potato community is indeed a tight-knit community, and the show of support is indicative of that cohesion,” Donald said. “For the health of Linkletter Farms and the entire industry on P.E.I., we know we all wish to see this incident resolved as quickly as possible.”
The PEIPB’s press release stated that “over the past number of years, the potato industry has been actively adopting Food Safety and Traceability Programs, knowing that they are now part of doing business and to ensure our customers of a safe, quality food supply.” The board said it recently hired someone to research the availability and reliability of testing equipment that could possibly be put to use by potato packers to test product at their operations.
Donald reiterated the stance of the board and the RCMP that the incidents are viewed as an isolated event. He said customers of PEI potato exporters share this view, and that the case “should not have any wider impact on any of the other Island exporters of potato products.”
Anyone who has information that may assist police in this investigation, is urged to contact the P.E.I. RCMP at 902 436 9300. Alternatively, an email can be sent to email@example.com and an investigator will respond.
During the press conference, P.E.I. Crime Stoppers manager Phil Pitts said information related to the case can provided anonymously to the organization. Crime Stoppers is an independent organization that offers eligible callers cash rewards to a maximum of $2,000 for tips leading to an arrest or charge. Information may be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers by phone at 1 800 2228477), via the web at www.peicrimestoppers.com, or by text by texting “TIP162” plus your message to (274637) CRIMES.