Strawberry needle scare: what's going on?

Strawberry needle scare: what's going on?”

Both of New Zealand's major food distributors, Foodstuffs and Countdown, announced on Monday they are taking Australian strawberries off their shelves because of the scare.

While a health warning to throw out or cut up strawberries remains in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, a campaign has emerged on Twitter encouraging people to #smashastrawb.

On Wednesday, ten cases of needle contaminations in strawberries are being investigated by Western Australia Police, as the national crisis escalates.

He said that while police have primary responsibility, the federal agency is investigating "whether there are supply chain weaknesses".

Strawberries Australia's industry development officer Jennifer Rowling told the ABC that the industry is "devastated by this incident and it's distressing to think that someone's done something like this".

"You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk, and you are scaring children", Mr Morrison said.

Across the country, shoppers had reported finding needles or pins in packages of strawberries bought from supermarkets.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has asked the attorney-general to consider raising the penalty for the crime of food contamination from 10 to 15 years, in a move created to deter further tampering with fresh fruits.

"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.

The new laws will be rapidly drafted and introduced to Parliament this week.

A man in the town of York reported to police that he found a needle in a sink after washing strawberries.

"I don't care if you've got a gripe with a company, I don't care whether you've got a gripe with your fellow worker, this is a very serious thing", he said.

A Coles spokeswoman said its stores were not involved in WA and its strawberries were being returned to shelves in the eastern states.

Queensland Police's investigation into the contamination was further complicated when a 62-year-old woman was caught sticking a needle into a banana in a shop in Mackay, in an apparent copycat act.

"As you would have heard, this morning a student at St. Paul's discovered a needle in a piece of fruit", the school wrote on Facebook page on Wednesday night.

Mr Stefanovic said they wanted to visit properties, speak to farmers and find out how hard things have been for them over the past seven days as they dump perfectly good fruit.

The Queensland government is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for last week's attack.

With demand plunging for the soft fruit, strawberry farmers say they are being forced to dump and pulp produce, prompting fears for an industry worth $160m (£80m).

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