Strawberry panic spreads after needle copycat sabotages bananas in Australia

Marco Green
September 19, 2018

That would make the penalty on par with crimes such as child pornography and financing terrorism, he said. It's not amusing. You're putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you're scaring children.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the new laws would be drafted today with an intent to pass them through Parliament this week. "And if you do that sort of thing in this country we will come after you, and we will throw the book at you".

Contaminated strawberries have now been found in supermarkets Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

But anything can happen at the store level, a spokesman said, so the company is considering introducing improved packaging.

The sabotage has also spread to the state of Western Australia.

The Federal Government has already announced $1 million to help deal with the crisis, fast-track product recalls and to detect contamination.

Police say there have been over 20 incidents of contamination in NSW since September 12, but Stuart Smith, Acting Commander, State Crime Command said police believe it's the work of copycats and pranksters, and not connected with the initial strawberry contamination in Queensland.

The WA Strawberry Growers' Association has called on the federal and state governments to provide financial assistance, including a reward for information leading to the culprits being found, much like the one offered in Queensland.

Empty shelves normally stocked with strawberry punnets are seen at a Coles Supermarket in Brisbane
Empty shelves normally stocked with strawberry punnets are seen at a Coles Supermarket in Brisbane

An investigation is underway after a metal object was found inserted into a banana in a Coles supermarket in Queensland, the state Police Commissioner has confirmed.

"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.

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

"The simple point here is that on a larger scale, sabotage has been recently conceived to include sabotage of infrastructure that allows for the provision of electricity or water to Australian citizens, because they are essential to our citizens wellbeing and therefore our national security", he said.

According to officials, the food crisis has forced one strawberry farm to completely dump all of its produce.

The devastated daughter of an all but ruined Queensland strawberry farmer has shared her family's distress at having to dump truckloads of fruit as a result of the needle contamination scare.

Mr Stewart did not give details but confirmed police were also investigating a banana contamination.

"These measures apply to fresh strawberry exports to all markets, and will remain in place until the risk of metal contaminants has been appropriately managed".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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