Boy arrested for putting needles in strawberries

Andrew Cummings
September 21, 2018

Prime Minister Morrison said on Wednesday that the new penalties were on a par with crimes such as child pornography and financing terrorism.

"We've already had repercussions in Queensland, what's going to happen in Victoria I don't know", said Mr Calle, a 38-year strawberry grower based in Wandin North, about 40km east of Melbourne.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton revealed there are now more than 100 reports of contaminated fruit.

The new crimes will only require that the person was "reckless", rather than needing to prove an intention to cause damage.

Nobody has sustained serious injury yet, and a senior Australian minister said numerous cases would turn out to be hoaxes.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan posted on Twitter Tuesday using the hashtag, writing: "Western Australians, get behind our local industry".

The sabotage offence will apply to large-scale tampering that endangers "national security" and follows the government's recent changes to the offence to capture cyberattacks on systems like power grids.

A team of 100 police officers from Queensland has been tasked to investigate the incidents and track down the culprit responsible for the initial contamination.

Others fear the rising number of cases is down to copycats.

They have asked the public for help with their investigation and are expected later Wednesday to increase a reward for information that helps resolve the case.

Following that, needles were found embedded in strawberries on September 13.

Since then, at least six more brands are believed to have been contaminated, prompting a mass recall and one of New Zealand's two major food chains to stop stocking Australian products.

The federal government pledged A$1m (£550,000; $720,000) to assist the strawberry industry, matching a commitment made by Queensland.

Palaszczuk told reporters, "Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia-they are putting an entire industry at risk".

Last week, it was reported that sewing needles and pins had been found hidden within the flesh of strawberries being sold in the state of Queensland.

"It's not a joke, it's not amusing", he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

The strawberry industry is worth A$160 million ($115 million), according to the sector, with most of the fruit consumed locally.

Smith said that people deliberately contaminating food can face up to 10 years in prison.

However, he said there was no guarantee they would work if the contamination was occurring offsite.

A man reportedly found a needle in his kitchen sink, where he had been preparing strawberries for his family earlier.

Asked if the Queensland crisis was hurting the Victorian industry, he said: "At this point in time it hasn't had any impact on us, but we're anxious that it might have an impact".

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