Strawberry scare: Australian supermarket stops selling needles

Daniel Fowler
September 23, 2018

Woolworths has pulled sewing needles from its shelves amid ongoing cases of fruit contamination. "The safety of our customers is our top priority", a Woolworths spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the "parasites" responsible for spiking strawberries should do hard time in jail.

Insisting authorities were "not mucking about", Mr Morrison also urged Australians to make a pavlova and put strawberries on it.

"Just go back to buying strawberries like you used to and take the precautions that you should", Morrison told Australians in a televised address.

Assistant Commissioner of police of the state of New South Wales Stewart Smith said that the arrested guy was most likely put a needle in strawberries for fun.

Since people first reported finding sewing needles in strawberries last week, over 100 cases of fruit contamination have been reported in Australia, some of them likely "hoaxes" or "copycat events", officials said in a press conference Wednesday.

Under the new laws, which Labor is expected to support, the maximum penalties for those convicted of tampering with fruit would increase from 10 to 15 years.

Strawberry growers blamed some state police forces and other authorities for fuelling "hysteria" over the incidents and prompting panic that has led to copycat crimes and a fear of buying fruit. Needles have been found in strawberries, bananas and apples - but a few of these have been ruled out as fakes.

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Now there are reports a needle was found inside a mango. The state's strawberry picking season is expected to begin in the next six weeks, according to the premier.

In NSW the maximum penalty for deliberately contaminating a food source is 10 years in jail.

The new measures, which the Parliament will consider this week, also directed against those who are satisfied with the jokes and pranks that threaten the life and health of people.

The needle scare in Australia has terribly affected the farmers.

WA Police issued a caution to a primary school child who falsely claimed to find a needle in a strawberry.

The piercing of supermarket strawberries with sewing needles is comparable to terrorism, Australia's prime minister said on Wednesday, as he demanded sentences of up to 15 years in response to a nationwide scare.

The Queensland and NSW governments are offering a reward to catch the culprits.

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