A TERANG man has pleaded guilty to trying to extort money from Campbell’s Soup by claiming he had found a syringe in a can of Country Ladle butternut pumpkin soup.
Daniel Wayne Ferris, 33, admitted putting the syringe in the soup before emailing the company to demand compensation.
Ferris pleaded guilty in Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday to four charges, including contaminating goods by inserting a syringe into the can of soup, intending to cause public alarm or anxiety or economic loss through public awareness of the contamination, and making a false report to police.
The prosecutor, Sergeant Lisa Aulich, told the court that Ferris came home from work on March 1 last year and took a can of butternut pumpkin soup from the kitchen pantry.
He poured the soup into a plastic bowl before placing the syringe in the bowl and alerting his wife, Jan, to what he had found.
He emailed Campbell Soup, a US company that has its Australian head office in Sydney and a food processing plant in Victoria, demanding compensation.
Sergeant Aulich said Ferris did not expect police to become involved but Campbell’s alerted the Department of Health. The department is required to notify police in cases of deliberate product contamination and contacted the Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad.
Campbell’s then forensically tested their procedures and found it was impossible for a syringe to pass through the filling point on the production line.
“If a syringe was inserted into a can during production, the syringe would show obvious signs of being heat affected,” Sergeant Aulich said.
The prosecutor said that in order to put pressure on Campbell’s to pay him compensation, Ferris went to the media and was interviewed on radio 3AW by Derryn Hinch about finding the syringe in his soup.
Sergeant Aulich said Ferris intended to use the interview to cause public alarm or anxiety or economic loss to Campbell’s.
Ferris’ lawyer, Jamie Singh, said his client was a father of three who had separated from his wife and was “very sorry this whole episode has occurred”.
He had lost everything three years earlier when the family home had been destroyed by fire.
“It is unfortunate my client succumbed to this temptation to deceive,” Mr Singh said.
Magistrate Michelle Ehrlich released Ferris on bail for a psychiatric report to be prepared and adjourned the case to November 28.