Australia's needle-in-strawberry scare widens

Australia's needle-in-strawberry scare widens

A $100,000 reward has already been offered for information on the Queensland strawberry saboteur amid fears six brands across four states have been targeted with needle insertion.

Australian police said yesterday they are investigating reports of dozens of cases of needles embedded in strawberries and other fruits, and warned that those responsible could be jailed for 10 years. At least six brands of strawberries have been affected.

A man in Queensland posted on Facebook that his friend had swallowed half a sewing needle after eating a strawberry from Woolworths on September 9 and had to go to hospital suffering from "severe abdominal pain".

Authorities are warning consumers to be cautious and cut open their fruit before consuming it after dozens of cases have been reported of people finding sewing needles in strawberries, bananas and apples.

Mr Morrison said the new legislation would also target those behind copycat and hoax incidents.

Last week, the first reports of needles hidden inside of strawberries emerged in New South Wales.

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

On Monday, New Zealand's two largest food distributors - Countdown and Foodstuffs - said they had stopped importing Australian strawberries due to the scare.

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"A member of the public today presented at York police station to report his concerns that a needle had been in a punnet of strawberries", the Western Australian police said in a statement.

"Someone is trying to sabotage the industry but also in doing that, they are putting babies' and children's and families' lives at risk", said Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Police were called after the metal object, measuring about 2cm long, was allegedly found in a strawberry being eaten by a two-year-old child.

"I'm angry for all the associated people, it's the farmers, the people who supply them, the packaging people, the truckies with families to support, who suddenly lose their's far-reaching", Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz told the AP.

"I expect nobody goes home until that's done", he said.

He said other growers were being forced to do the same, with others cutting back on staff in the wake of the nationwide strawberry contamination.

The Queensland Health Department has advised anyone who has bought Berry Obsession and Berry Licious strawberries to destroy or return them after they were pulled from shelves.

Strawberry prices have plummeted all around Australia, with prices in some are now below production costs, which will affect next year's crops as well, as some growers will probably be unable to break even this year.



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