Island potato growers frustrated as more metal objects found in Maritime spuds

Dave Stewart
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Hayden Produce Inc. is using a metal detector to make sure its potatoes are completely safe going to market. Here, Paul Squires, who works at the Vernon Bridge farm, shows off some of the product.

This map shows some of the locations where metal objects were found in potatoes around Atlantic Canada. Cick on a dot to see what was found.

A $100,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for tampering with potatoes.
Tips can be made anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477, via the web at www.peicrimestoppers.com or by texting TIP162 plus the message to 274637 (CRIMES).
People may also call the RCMP directly or email hank.pollard@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

Island potato farmer Dean Hayden says it’s a headache growers and consumers don’t need.

RCMP in Nova Scotia are investigating an incident of a nail found in a potato in Berwick.

A preliminary investigation determined that a consumer had purchased two five-pound bags of Griffin Russet potatoes from Foodland in Berwick on May 27.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is also investigating two cases, one of a needle found in a potato and one in which a needle was found in a potato bag.

RELATED: RCMP investigating nail found in Nova Scotia potato

RELATED: Potato tampering 'crisis' debated in legislature

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON TAINTED POTATOES

Hayden said the ongoing issue with metal objects being found in potatoes on top of the harsh winter has slowed things down.

“We had to purchase a metal detector so we’re moving forward on ways to deal with it,’’ said Hayden, who runs Hayden Produce Inc. in Vernon Bridge. “It’s just something else you have to deal with. You shouldn’t have to but you have to deal with it. Hopefully, they catch whoever is responsible and that will be the end of it.’’

Hayden said the bottom line is making sure the product is safe for the consumer.

“You have to do it for the consumer, absolutely.’’

Other growers The Guardian talked to say they’re tired of talking about the issue, pointing out that all it does is give whoever is responsible lots of attention.

One grower didn’t want to be identified, explaining that some farmers in the industry think by talking to the media they make themselves a target.

“It’s an enormous expense to the industry, there’s no question about that,’’ one grower said. “It is certainly a serious matter.’’

Still, all were in agreement that consumers and retailers are still buying potatoes.

Joshua Biggley told The Guardian on Twitter that it hasn’t given him pause when it comes to buying spuds.

“Don’t most potatoes get sliced, diced, boiled, mashed (and) fried? Very low risk of injury, (in my opinion),’’ Biggley said.

Crystal Sherry agreed in a Facebook post.

“We can’t let the idiots who are doing this scare us into avoiding our precious P.E.I. potatoes,’’ Sherry said. “You need to be aware of what you’re eating, no matter what it is.’’

The matter came up for discussion in the P.E.I. legislature on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac said a federal-provincial program is helping growers purchase metal detecting equipment.

McIsaac said the program pays about 35 per cent of the cost of a metal detector device, to a maximum of $30,000 for small operations and a maximum of $100,000 for large farms. So far, seven potato farms have received help with another 20 looking for assistance.

A $100,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible. Anonymous tips are eligible for the reward. The deadline for that reward was extended last month to Oct. 31.

RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler said Thursday there is no new information on the investigation.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: RCMP, Foodland, Hayden Produce The Guardian on Twitter

Geographic location: Maritime, Nova Scotia, Berwick Vernon Bridge P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Paul in NJ
    June 07, 2015 - 15:45

    So, at what point are these objects being inserted? The metal detector bit sounds as though someone is doing it on the farm. Is it as the bags are packed? Maybe on a truck leaving the farm? Shouldn't there be security cameras?

  • Island Observer
    Island Observer
    June 05, 2015 - 07:24

    The assistance that the government is providing covers up to 35% of the costs of the detection equipment, not 65%. For small to medium sized farms, the equipment and installation can cost about $50,000 - 70,000. For places that pack potatoes on a bit larger scale, it can cost well over $200,000. For some, it's over $500,000. Several farms have been tampered with, and others are also having to spend money on detection equipment in order to ensure their potatoes are safe too. This is terrorism, in our own back yards. Someone is attacking the family farms in this province and they need to be caught before someone is hurt. Livestock are also fed potatoes, so there is danger to those animals too. Please call the RCMP or Crimestoppers if you know anything. Even a conversation from back last summer or early fall in which someone said something a bit off to you about farmers could help the police.