Boy arrested in Australia after admitting to putting needles in strawberries

Lloyd Doyle
September 19, 2018

The Australian government will introduce new penalties for food contamination in the wake of the strawberry contamination scare, which ministers and police believe is being driven by copycat hoaxers.

From 9am on Wednesday all fresh strawberries being exported from Australia must be metal-contaminant free.

Reports of fruit contamination being investigated by police.

Australian Agriculture Minister Mark Furner met with farmers at Beerwah in Queensland on Monday night, and wrote to his federal, state and territory counterparts for support. A 7-year-old girl also discovered a needle, but was not injured.

Fears of a copycat fruit saboteur emerged on Monday after police reported that a woman was caught inserting a needle into a banana in a Queensland supermarket. Police in both states are investigating. They have been recalled.

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz said the act of "commercial terrorism" has severely hurt the multimillion-dollar industry. It is believed to be an isolated incident. No injuries have been reported.

Who is behind the sabotage?

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said in a statement that it had "reason to suspect" the culprit to be a former employee and is working with Queensland police to find the culprit.

"What isn't helpful is the number of copycat and fake reports making an already hard situation worse", Ms Palaszczuk told Parliament on Wednesday.

Queensland, a major strawberry producer, is offering A$100,000 (£54,768) as a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

Empty shelves, normally stocked with strawberry punnets, are seen at a Coles Supermarket in Brisbane, Australia, Sept. 14, 2018.

She said Donnybrook Berries would be adding metal detectors and other safety equipment - a measure at least one other Queensland grower will be taking.

"Strawberries were interfered with between the time they were packed and the time they were purchased", it said, also advising purchasers to cut their fruit in half before eating for "peace of mind".

The needle scare has led to strawberry farmers being forced to dump their produce, casting a shadow over the industry worth AUS$160 million a year.

"The sabotage of our strawberry industry is not just an attack on hard-working growers and workers, but it reaches into nearly every home and school lunch box", she told parliament on Tuesday.

Some have urged the public to continue purchasing the fruit to support the industry.

New Zealand imports Australian strawberries when they are out of season locally from April to September, and both chains say the home-grown product will be on supermarket shelves soon.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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