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Australia's needle-in-strawberry scare widens

21 Septembre 2018

The acting assistant commissioner said police still believe the other cases of needles found in strawberries are the work of copycats and pranksters.

Consumers across Australia have reported finding needles stuck in their strawberries, as the government launches a federal investigation and growers install metal detectors to try to stop the contamination.

New South Wales police said the Love Berry, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis brands may also have been contaminated.

A man in Queensland posted on Facebook that his friend had swallowed half a sewing needle after eating a strawberry from Woolworths on September 9 and had to go to hospital suffering from "severe abdominal pain".

New laws will be introduced so people contaminating strawberries face more jail time, the Australian Prime Minister has announced.

It was announced on Monday both Foodstuff and Countdown - both owned by Woolworths and both controlling almost the entire New Zealand grocery market - had stopped sending out Australian strawberries to its stores.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered a federal investigation into the contamination. "This a vicious crime, it's created to injure, and possibly worse, members of the population at large", Hunt said.

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Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz said the act of "commercial terrorism" has severely hurt the multimillion-dollar industry.

There have also been reports of apples and bananas being targeted with needles as police fear a spate of copy cats.

In response, Coles and Aldi pulled all strawberries from their shelves, while Woolworths pulled only the affected brands it stocked.

Authorities say the sabotage is "putting families' lives at risk", and a AUD$100,000 reward has been offered for information.

BUT - while there is real concern that people play it safe with strawberries, it's important to remind everyone that you can still eat them, just be vigilant and cut them up into small pieces.

The announcement followed just days after West Australian farmers have been forced to dump their produce.

A social media awareness campaign called #SmashAStrawb has also popped up, urging Australians to keep eating the fruit in order to support farmers. We then checked the other strawberries and found another sewing needle lodged inside one of them.

Police, growers and supermarkets are all using metal detectors to check the strawberries they are selling.

A young boy has been arrested in Australia after allegedly admitting to putting needles inside strawberries in what's been described as a copycat prank.

Glass House Mountains farmer Leonard Smith from Queensland said that the safety measure would cost him about $A30,000 ($NZ32,600), but would hopefully get the rest of this season's fruit back on supermarket shelves.

However, NSW Police said on Tuesday it was investigating 20 cases in that state alone so the total figure is likely much higher.

Australia's needle-in-strawberry scare widens