Major Australian chain temporarily stops selling needles amid strawberry scare

Galtero Lara
Setiembre 21, 2018

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

But Woolworths said the safety of its customers was its top priority and that pulling sewing needles from its shelves across the country was a safety measure.

The latest contamination scare comes as authorities across the country investigate more than 100 reports of tampered fruit.

"In the last two days, we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he'll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system", he told reporters.

Braetop Berries strawberry farmer Aidan Young holds a strawberry as he poses amid strawberries he will destroy following a nationwide needle scare, on his farm in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland on September 20, 2018.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the "parasites" responsible for spiking strawberries with needles should do hard time in jail.

While farmers welcomed the government action, many said they face financial ruin if demand does not recover quickly.

On Wednesday, one week after the initial recall of strawberries was issued in Queensland, Australians who are fed up with the impact the scandal is having on farmers and local fruit and veg stores around the country joined a new social media movement to support farmers and to ensure fruit doesn't go to waste.

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"We have worked with our suppliers to implement additional control measures to ensure strawberries are inspected before they are sent to supermarkets", a spokesperson said.

Australia's parliament passed legislation on Thursday to increase the maximum prison term to 15 years from 10 years for anyone convicted of tampering with food, in line with offences such as financing terrorism.

The problem came to light from a Facebook post earlier this month by a man who said his friend had swallowed part of a needle hidden in a strawberry and went to the hospital.

As reported by SBS News, a girl was arrested in New South Wales over behaviour that "could be called a prank", according to Acting Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith.

In NSW the maximum penalty for deliberately contaminating a food source is 10 years in jail. It's not amusing. You are putting the livelihoods of hardworking Australians at risk and you are scaring children.

The Queensland and Western Australian governments are offering similar rewards.

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

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