Strawberry needle crisis: needle found in Coles mango by customer

A needle in a strawberry  as seen on Australian TV news.   7 News  Youtube

There was also a report a metal object was found in a banana in Queensland.

According to the new laws, punishment for food tampering offences can be a maximum of 15 years in prison.

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

Strawberry growers blamed some state police forces and other authorities for fuelling "hysteria" over the incidents and prompting panic that has led to copycat crimes and a fear of buying fruit.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Australian authorities had also given assurance that only strawberries free of metal contamination would be exported through the issuance of Request for Permit (RFPs) to exporters.

The problem came to light from a Facebook post earlier this month by a man who said his friend had swallowed part of a needle hidden in a strawberry and went to the hospital.

Australian supermarket chain Woolworths has pulled all sewing needles from the shelves as a safety precaution as the national strawberry contamination crisis continues to frighten consumers.

Two of the largest supermarket chain in New Zealand on Monday made a decision to suspend the purchase of Australian strawberries.

A needle was found in an apple.   Channel 7 News
A needle was found in an apple. Channel 7 News

The scare has prompted a series of supermarket recalls, and some stores in New Zealand have temporarily banned the sale of Australian strawberries.

There have now been more than 100 reported cases of contaminated strawberries, although some are suspected to be hoaxes.

Section 13 of the Food Act requires that those involved in importing, distributing, keeping and selling food which contain poison or is harmful to health can be fined not more than RM100,000 (S$33,043) or jailed not more than 10 years or both, he said.

On Thursday, lawmakers in Australia passed new legislation increasing the jail term for those convicted of hiding needles in fruit to 15 years.

Sabotaging our strawberries is sabotaging our farmers.

The Prime Minister called those responsible for the strawberry scare cowards and grubs. It's not amusing. You are putting the livelihoods of hardworking Australians at risk and you are scaring children. "The full weight of the law should be thrown at people", Labor frontbencher Tony Burke told Sky News.

The state of Queensland had previously been offering a £100,000AUS reward for anyone with information that would help with the nationwide investigation.

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