As more and more reports continue to flood in of Aussie families discovering needles planted inside strawberries, Woolworths is taking urgent and drastic action to try and stop the crisis.
The supermarket giant is temporarily pulling all sewing needles from its shelves, amid concerns for customers’ safety.
A Woolies spokesperson told Starts at 60: “We’ve taken the precautionary step of temporarily removing sewing needles from sale in our stores. The safety of our customers is our top priority.”
The contamination crisis has spread to the very heart of the nation and devastated strawberry farmers in Queensland, who have been forced to dump truck-loads of produce in the wake of more than 100 reports of needles hidden inside the fruit previously grown and packaged at their farms.
It comes just hours after The Daily Telegraph reported a NSW schoolgirl, 12, admitted to planting a needle in a strawberry. She had initially told her friends she had found it in the fruit at school, prompting police to interview her.
Only after police left did she confess the truth to her parents, who called the authorities back to their home to talk to the girl again. She will reportedly be dealt with under the youth cautioning system, a formal out-of-court process that’s typically used as an alternative to prosecution for young offenders.
That came a day after NSW Police made their first arrest in relation to the fruit contamination scandal. Police confirmed that a boy had handed himself in to officers, having admitted to putting needles in strawberries “as a prank”.
NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith confirmed the unidentified boy’s arrest, who will also be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, PM Scott Morrison declared harsher punishments for anyone found to be involved in the sabotage, including copycat crimes.
He described those involved so far as “cowards” and “grubs” and said new laws would target the reckless behaviour.
“Some idiot, for his own reasons, or her own reasons, has engaged in an act of sabotage, it would seem, that has put all of that at risk for these people just out there having a go,” he said. “And not only that, mums and dads and their kids have been put in the position of having a real concerns and, indeed, fears. It’s not on.”
Morrison increased the prison penalty from 10 to 15 years for anyone engaging in sabotage similar to the strawberry scandal. In addition, anyone who claims fruit contamination as a hoax, even if they are joking around on social media, could face a decade behind bars. He said the government was taking the issue as seriously as terrorism or fighting child pornography.