The Hunt Continues For Strawberry Saboteurs
Almost two weeks after a Queensland man was taken to hospital after biting into a strawberry with a sewing needle inside, the hunt for those responsible goes on.
The contamination has spread nationwide, with West Australian police confirming on Tuesday that they were investigating claims a primary school student had bitten into a strawberry with a needle inside.
From 9am on Wednesday all fresh strawberries being exported from Australia must be metal-contaminant free.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources announced the interim control measure on Tuesday evening in response to the growing situation.
"In order for strawberry export permits to be approved, exporters will be required to provide assurance to the department that their consignment is free from metal contaminants," the department said in a statement.
"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."
Tuesday's report was the fifth incident of needle-contaminated strawberries in WA.
The latest incident has led to the WA government following the Queensland government in offering a $100,000 reward for information on the culprit or culprits.
"The motive appears unclear ... at the end of the day it's an act of treachery to the people of Australia," Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty told reporters, confirming NSW police were investigating at least 20 cases of needles being found in fruit including claims of needles being found in an apple and a banana.
Det Supt Doherty said perpetrators, including copycats and consumers falsely claiming a discovery, could face up to 10 years in jail for food contamination.
No-one has been charged in relation to the tampering.
In Queensland, struggling growers have been boosted by the announcement of a $1 million fund to assist them through the crisis.
Horticulture body Growcom has implored consumers to keep buying strawberries.
"Hang in there with us and our saying will be 'cut it up, don't cut us out'," Growcom chief executive David Thomson said.
The scare is expected to result in a review of fruit handling, storage and packaging following the police investigations, Mr Thomson said.