Published: Fri, September 21, 2018
Economy | By

Strawberries spook Australia into raising jail terms for food tampering

Strawberries spook Australia into raising jail terms for food tampering

A NSW schoolgirl has been caught up in a prank involving a needle in a strawberry.

Australia's other big supermarket chain, Coles, said it would continue to sell sewing needles.

The media recently reported that Australia had ordered a recall of strawberry products under the brands Berry Obsession strawberries, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis after discovering several cases of the fruit containing needles believed to be a sabotage.

In a statement, the supermarket giant confirmed it had taken the precautionary step of temporarily removing sewing needles from sale at all its stores.

"The safety of our customers is our top priority", the retailer said, without discussing further the reasons behind its decision.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lashed out at the "grubs" who are responsible for the contamination crisis, announcing new penalties and an increase in jail time for offenders.

The Australian government is rushing legislation through parliament to ratchet up the maximum penalties for so-called "food terrorists" from 10 to 15 years behind bars.

The phenomenon - which has turned many Australians off buying strawberries and thrown Australia's fruit industry into chaos - appears to have worsened over the past week.

NSW Police would not confirm whether or not the child placed a needle in the strawberry, but said she was dealt with under the Young Defender's Act, adding that no further action would be pursued. The majority are not contaminated, and if you find any needles in a pack then you can report it of course.

"I'm just focused on making sure no idiot goes into a supermarket this weekend and does something ridiculous", the prime minister told reporters in Royalla, NSW.

Others have suggested using egg slicers to cut strawberries to ensure they are safe.

If the person were an adult, he would be facing a maximum of 10 years in jail in NSW.

On Wednesday, an Australian government minister said at least 100 reports had been received of needles in fruit.

'It's not a joke, it's not amusing. It's not amusing. You're putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk.

"This is a disgusting act created to instil fear in consumers and to undermine our agricultural industry".

It has also been reported Australian Federal Police were following up on as many as 100 leads, majority of which are anticipated to be copycats or hoaxes.

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