Woolworths pulls sewing needles from shelves following the spiking of strawberries

Woolworths pulls sewing needles from shelves following the spiking of strawberries

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).

Sewing needles were taken off the shelves at a major Australian supermarket chain on Thursday amid a national panic over sharp objects being found inside strawberries and other fruit.

The latest contamination scare comes as authorities across the country investigate more than 100 reports of tampered fruit.

Most are thought to be pranks or jokes on social media, but at least two minors have been questioned by police for carrying out hoaxes.

"We've taken the precautionary step of temporarily removing sewing needles from sale in our stores", a Woolworths spokesperson confirmed to ABC News via email on Thursday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $1 million in assistance to the strawberry industry yesterday, in addition to the $1 million support package from the Queensland government.

The 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 move came as copycats and pranksters putting needles in fruit are being hunted by police, with one boy already arrested in NSW while fresh cases continue to emerge across Australia.

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Ford's lawyers said on Tuesday she would not appear before the Senate until after the FBI investigates the allegations. The president has indicated he wants Ford to testify, saying, "I really want to see her, to see what she has to say".

Opposition leader Bill Shorten appeared in parliament to ask Australians to buy "a punnet for yourself and a punnet for the nation".

One young boy has been arrested in NSW in relation to the crisis, however police on Wednesday described it as behaviour that "could be called a prank".

"Some idiot, for his own reasons, has engaged in an act of sabotage it would seem, and that has put all of that risk for these people out there having a go".

One man in the state of Western Australia and a girl in South Australia reported finding needles in their strawberries in the past two days, according to police.

Anyone who tampers with food could soon face up to 15 years' jail, in line with child pornography and terror financing offences.

There will also be a new offence of being reckless in causing harm, which will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Instead of throwing away strawberries, simply cut them up and turn them into tasty creations. "Stick it up these parasites by going into the supermarkets and buying strawberries".

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

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