Man arrested over alleged food contamination was not part of group, police say

A man arrested over allegedly contaminating supermarket products acted alone, police have said.

Officers in forensic suits were seen in Fulham Palace Road, in west London, on Thursday as three stores – a Tesco Express, Little Waitrose and Sainsbury’s Local – remained closed following reports the 37-year-old suspect was injecting food with needles on Wednesday evening.

The Metropolitan Police said there is no evidence the man was working as part of a group with no further reports of similar incidents occurring.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council also said the risk to the public is believed to be low.

Supermarket food contaminated with syringes
The risk to the public is believed to be low (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Detective Chief Superintendent Owain Richards, in charge of policing the area, said: “Investigations are under way to understand what items have been contaminated, but we now know this includes food and non-food items.

“Enquiries are also ongoing to identify what the items have been contaminated with and this is subject to further forensic examination. We would ask people not to speculate until we have these results.

“At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that the suspect has been working as part of a group but detectives are keeping an open mind around the motive for these events.

“I would like to reassure members of the public that the Met is working closely with our partners at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, as well as other authorities, as we pursue all lines of inquiry. This is a multi-agency response and we are also working with the supermarket branches that have been affected.

“We have not had further reports of the type of incidents brought to our attention and we are continuing to work on establishing the timeline of this man’s movements and the wider circumstances of these events.”

Evidence bags marked “caution health hazard” and filled with products including cooked chicken slices were seen on the pavement outside the Tesco store.

Supermarket food contaminated with syringes
Evidence bags could be seen outside Tesco (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Officers were alerted at around 7.40pm on Wednesday after the suspect was reported to be shouting abuse at people in the street.

The man had been taken into custody on suspicion of contamination of goods with the intention of causing public harm or anxiety and an investigation is under way.

A spokesperson from Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: “This is a worrying incident and we’re working with the Metropolitan Police and Public Health England to examine any risks to the public or staff at the supermarkets. Currently, these risks are thought to be low.”

The council advised shoppers to throw away anything bought from the three shops after 6pm.

Shani Samet said she was sitting in the back of the Avanti tapas restaurant she co-owns on Fulham Palace Road when she heard a loud bang and saw a man swearing at a waiter before throwing a plant pot at him.

Ms Samet said: “He could’ve cracked somebody’s brain open.”

Supermarket food contaminated with syringes
The stores remained closed on Thursday (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Waiter Eder Sevilla said: “A guy walked in and picked up the plant pot and threw it at me in the main part of the restaurant and he was just swearing at me and then he walked away.

“He didn’t look right… He was swearing at me and was a little bit shaking.

“We had a few customers inside so they were in shock when they heard the boom. Everyone was worried, everyone was looking about asking what happened.”