NSW boy arrested for inserting needles in strawberries as prank

Cornelia Mascio
Сентября 21, 2018

The crisis, which has seen farmers dump unwanted fruits by the truckload and Woolworths this morning pull all sewing needles from their shelves, has been condemned by Australia's leaders.

Woolworths announced Thursday that it was temporarily removing needles from sale, according to the Reuters news agency.

A spokeswoman said the safety of customers was its top priority.

Authorities have complained that the vast majority of the 100 reported cases were hoaxes, and warned that pranksters posting images on Facebook claiming that they have discovered tainted fruit could also face prosecution and potential jail time.

NSW Police on Wednesday announced a $100,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction for contaminated fruit.

At least 13 people have gone public about finding needles in their strawberries since a man was rushed to hospital on September 9.

Strawberry farmers have welcomed the action, saying they faced financial ruin if demand did not recover quickly.

The federal government will move to increase the penalties for tampering with fruit, introducing new legislation this week as the nationwide crisis over needles in food continues to grow amid what appears to be multiple copycat crimes.

Health agencies and police have encouraged consumers to cut fruit before eating
Health agencies and police have encouraged consumers to cut fruit before eating it Credit REUTERS

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 fruit scare has been given a national and global profile by new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has addressed it publicly several times in the last few days.

"I'm just focused on making sure no idiot goes into a supermarket this weekend and does something ridiculous", Morrison told reporters. "Stick it up these parasites by going into the supermarkets and buying strawberries".

One young girl has already been arrested over behaviour that "could be called a prank", acting police assistant commissioner Stuart Smith said.

Yesterday NSW police said that of the 20 incidents reported in NSW, some were copycat or pranks and unrelated to the initial contamination in Queensland.

"It's not amusing, putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk", the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

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

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

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