Red Deer City RCMP are investigating the first-ever case of food tampering at the Red Deer Food Bank after a pin and a toothpick were found inside the same apple on Thursday.
The unthinkable happened for executive director Fred Scaife when a food bank client phoned to say he’d found the push pin and a round wooden toothpick stuck inside an apple he’d received from a food hamper that was picked up on Wednesday. “Thank God no one was injured,” said Scaife, “but how unconscionable could you possibly be?”
Scaife is worried about the welfare of all of his clients if this food tampering case turns out not to be an isolated incident.
Calgary grocery stores were beset by at least 11 cases of food tampering since January. Metal objects, including push pins, have been found in ground beef, baked goods, cheese, produce and bulk foods at various stores.
A Calgary woman was charged on March 17 with mischief over $5,000 in connection with just one of those food-tampering occasions. Despite that arrest, the incidents have continued.
Scaife said food bank workers are looking over their intake records to see which store or individual donated the apple, which he believes from the description to be a Red Delicious.
He thinks it’s possible — but unlikely — that the apple was purchased by a donor in Calgary.
If the fruit was bought from or donated by a local grocery store, every Central Albertan needs to be more vigilant about checking the food they eat, said Scaife, who noted food bank clients might not have been specifically targeted — the apple might have been meant for any grocery store customer.
Food Bank workers had previously given donated fruits and vegetables a cursory inspection, but are now planning to be more thorough, he added. “Our clients suffer enough. To have this kind of thing happen to them just makes me heartsick . . . my head is reeling.”
The client who phoned in about the tampering has been helped by the food bank in the past. Scaife recalled the man telling him on Thursday that his young son has holding the apple before he noticed the tampering.
“He said, ‘My child had this apple in his hand and I don’t want to think what might have happened . . .’”
Scaife notified Red Deer City RCMP shortly after receiving the client’s phone call at about 3:30 p.m. and was still waiting to be interviewed.