Australia strawberry crisis: Woolworths stops selling needles

NSW boy arrested for inserting needles in strawberries as prank

Australia's other big supermarket chain, Coles, said it would continue to sell sewing needles.

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

Needles have been found in more than 20 punnets of strawberries across New South Wales, and potentially 100 pieces of fruit across the nation, in the week since the sabotage was first detected in Queensland.

On Wednesday, an Australian government minister said at least 100 reports had been received of needles in fruit.

'Obviously in the last few days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, ' Mr Smith said.

The crisis began on September 9, after a Queensland man ate a strawberry with a sewing needle inside.

Tasmanians are being urged to cut up all fruit before eating after metal was found in a local apple in an apparent copycat of interstate needle contamination.

As farmers reeled from the crisis, the federal government intervened on Wednesday, announced a $1m support package for the industry in addition to the tough new penalties.

NSW Police would not confirm whether or not the child placed a needle in the strawberry, but said she was dealt with under the Young Defender's Act, adding that no further action would be pursued.

Australian farmers are facing financial ruin and have been forced to dump mass harvests of fruit as consumer demand lessons and products are taken off shelves.

His government has successfully raised the maximum prison sentence for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years, with parliament passing the legislation on Thursday.

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

Under Section 13 of the Food Act 1983, any party involved in importing, distributing, storing or selling food containing toxic, damaging or harmful to health shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or a maximum imprisonment of 10 years or both, upon conviction. It's not amusing. You are putting the livelihoods of hardworking Australians at risk and you are scaring children.

The Queensland and NSW governments are offering a reward to catch the culprits.

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

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