Australia PM says strawberry sabotage akin to 'terrorism'

Needle strawberry australia

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.

"Obviously in the last few 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 said.

The new criminal penalties are on par with child pornography and terror financing offences.

"How could any right-minded person want to put a baby or a child or anybody's health at risk by doing such a terrible act?"

Six brands - Berry Licious, Berry Obsession, Donnybrook, Oasis, Love Berry and Delightful Strawberries - have been recalled nationally as fresh cases of needles found in strawberries were reported in Western Australia and South Australia at the weekend.

"That's how seriously our government takes it", Mr Morrison said on Wednesday, urging parliament to pass the new laws this week.

A spokesman for the Australian retail conglomerate Woolworths Group said its New Zealand supermaket chain Countdown would not place new orders with Australian growers.

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.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday announced urgent and harsh new commonwealth criminal penalties for contaminating food as the ongoing needle crisis brings many Australian farmers to their knees.

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Australia exports about 4 per cent of its strawberry...

As the number of reported attacks ballooned and suspected copycat attacks were reported - with one apple and one banana contaminated in the Sydney area - police issued a warning about the seriousness of the crime.

The Queensland government has also come to the financial aid of the state's growers, after announcing a reward for information on the contamination scare on Sunday.

Premier Annastacia Palazczuk on Tuesday said $1 million would go towards promoting the quality of Queensland-grown strawberries and look at ways to boost the integrity of the supply chain to get farmers through the season.

Officials said the contaminated fruit appeared to have originated at a Queensland-based supplier.

But with demand plunging, strawberry farmers have been forced to dump produce, casting a shadow over an industry worth A$160 million ($115.84 million).

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said the culprits must be "pursued and hunted down".

Contaminated punnets have now been reported in six states and territories.

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