Australia raises jail terms for food tampering to 15 years

A ripe strawberry ready for the picking

Camera IconA ripe strawberry ready for the

The federal government will increase from 10 to 15 years the maximum prison sentence for food tampering offences.

Strawberries Australia Inc, the country's largest industry body for strawberry growers, declined to comment on the move by Woolworths.

Woolworths has pulled sewing needles from its shelves amid ongoing cases of fruit contamination.

In the latest case a West Gosford customer said they found a needle in a mango purchased from Coles.

Several state governments in Australia have also announced awards of A$100,000 ($73,000) for information leading to the arrest of people who have stuck needles in fruit.

"Obviously in the last few days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he'll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system", he said.

The New South Wales Police Force said in a press release Tuesday that they have received more than 20 reports of contaminated strawberries alone.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said those caught piercing supermarket strawberries with needles are comparable to people guilty of possessing child pornography or financing terrorism.

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"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.

Labor's shadow cabinet will meet to consider the legislation on Thursday but its agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, has already said the laws looked "reasonable".

"It's a despicable act for anything like this to happen".

It's unknown how many of them were real and how many were hoaxes.

The news first emerged after one man reportedly was taken to hospital after swallowing metal fragments and suffering severe abdominal cramps and a nine-year-old child spat out a needle while eating a strawberry in school.

"What we've seen in the state we believe is the work of copycats and pranksters". This has even caused a number of Australian strawberry brands to remove their products from local supermarkets, according to BBC News.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that after a report about the recall by Astro Awani on Monday, the Australian authorities issued a Request for Permit (RFP) to exporters as an assurance that as of Sept 19 the produce exported from Australia will be free from metal contamination.

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