Needles found in strawberries stir food-contamination fears across Australia

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Growers and police have suggested that some cases may be copycat incidents.

Mr Calle said it was only a small number of punnets affected out of millions, and he anxious the media coverage was encouraging copycats. State police departments are investigating.

Police "are still unsure if the sabotage devastating the nation's strawberry industry is the work of a single person or several people acting independently", The Guardian reports.

The 250g punnet of Pinata brand strawberries had been bought from the Kingston Town Woolworths on Sunday.

In what is believed to have been a copycat act in Mackay in central Queensland, a woman was reportedly caught inserting a needle into a banana.

The latest contaminated batch was detected in Woodville, outside Newcastle NSW.

Australia strawberry scare as hidden sewing needles found in fruit across the country
Australia strawberry needle scare: here’s what we know so far

The child alerted teachers and police were called.

"The school alerted local police straight away". The banana was purchased from a store in Condell Park, and the apple was purchased from a supermarket in The Ponds.

Some trade partners in Russian Federation and the United Kingdom have already blocked Australian imports, while New Zealand supermarket chains have announced they would pull Australian-grown berries from their shelves.

In case you are just catching up, punnets of strawberries across different states have been found to be contaminated with sewing needles and pins, making them unsafe to eat without close inspection.

The state now has a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail for deliberately contaminating a food source.

In addition, penalties relating to existing adulteration behaviour would be increased to 15 years from 10 years.

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Asked about the mood among Victorian growers ahead of the harvest, Mr Calle said: "They are anxious that this is going to impact us when we start, that people are not going to buy strawberries".

"The community is reminded that contaminating food is treated as a serious offence and a threat to public safety".

Mr Morrison said the spread of actions in all States needed tougher laws immediately.

Smith then went on to stress the seriousness of the crime and the potential punishments, facts which were also reiterated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier today.

"This is a shocking and cowardly thing for this individual and others who have jumped onto the bandwagon here to have engaged in", Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"It's not a joke".

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"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", Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement. "You are a coward and a grub".

Attorney-General Christian Porter will introduce the new measures to Parliament tomorrow morning. He did not recall the needle being in the sink prior to preparing the strawberries.

He also said agencies are following a number of leads.

"It is not only a threat to the strawberry industry, it is a threat across the food production industry".

"We are dumping strawberries - we have stopped some of the varieties already", he told the ABC.

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