Year of Youth 2018

Strawberry needle scare: Australia PM vows crackdown on 'cowards'

Last edited 19th September 2018

Strawberry needle scare: Australia PM vows crackdown on 'cowards'

The Australian government says it will introduce stricter criminal penalties in response to a fruit contamination scare that has alarmed the country.

Authorities are investigating more than 100 reports of people finding needles concealed within strawberries and other fruits since last week, officials said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said culprits could face 15-year jail terms.

A young person has been arrested after admitting putting needles in the fruit as a copycat prank, police said.

The child would be "dealt with under the youth cautioning system," New South Wales Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said.

Prime Minister Morrison said on Wednesday that the new penalties were on a par with crimes such as child pornography and financing terrorism.

"That's how seriously our government takes it," he said, urging parliament to pass the new laws this week.

Currently, the maximum sentence for contaminating food is 10 years. The Labor opposition said it would support the change.

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