Jail for soup extortion bid by Terang man

A man who tried to extort money from the Campbell’s company by claiming he had found a syringe in a can of Country Ladle butternut pumpkin soup has been jailed for three months.

Daniel Wayne Ferris, 34, of Terang, admitted putting the syringe in the soup before emailing the company to demand compensation.

Magistrate Michelle Ehrlich said yesterday she had to jail Ferris, a father-of-three, to send a message to people in the community that “they cannot do this type of thing”.

“This kind of behaviour must be punished severely to prevent others from engaging in this sort of conduct,” Ms Ehrlich told Melbourne Magistrates Court.

She described the need for general deterrence as “enormous”.

Defence lawyer Jamie Singh indicated Ferris would immediately appeal the jail sentence.

Ferris pleaded guilty 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 court was told Ferris came home from work on March 1, 2011, 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.

Ferris then emailed Campbell Soup, a US company that has its Australian head office in Sydney and a food processing plant in Victoria, demanding compensation.

He 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.

As part of his plan 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.

Police claimed Ferris intended to use the interview to cause public alarm or anxiety or economic loss to Campbell’s but there was no product recall or warning issued to the public.

Mr Singh told the court Ferris, a scoliosis sufferer, had been having financial problems when he came up with the plan to try to get money from Campbell’s and simply got in over his head and had to keep the lie going when asked to make a statement to police.

He had been suffering from depression and anxiety since committing the offence.

Campbell’s soup products are sold in more than 100 countries.

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