Dad arrested over allegedly false fruit claim
AN ADELAIDE father has been charged over alleged false claims that his daughter ate a contaminated strawberry, as the crisis fruit sabotage crisis sweeps the nation.
The 34-year-old man from the city suburb of Paradise reported the incident - in which he claimed his daughter bit into a strawberry containing a needle - to authorities on September 17.
South Australia Police said in a statement today that the man allegedly purchased the punnet from a metropolitan supermarket.
"Following investigation by Eastern District CIB detectives, the man was arrested today and charged with making a false report to police and falsely claiming goods had been contaminated," the statement read.
A SA Police spokeswoman told news.com.au the details surrounding the claims were "complicated" and that no further information could be provided at this time.
He was bailed to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Monday.
Food tamperers could spend 10 to 15 years behind bars under laws passed by parliament on Thursday. It comes amid a national crisis that has seen saboteurs insert metal objects in fruits across five Australian states.
Earlier today, Northern Territory Police confirmed that a contaminated strawberry with a needle inside has been found in Darwin. It was the first case of its kind in the Territory.
The contaminated punnet was bought from a Nightcliff supermarket around three days ago, according to police.
NT Police Deputy Commissioner Grant Nicholls said there was "every chance" it was a copycat incident.
"Putting this is perspective, this is a single event, this is one strawberry in a single punnet in Nightcliff at the moment," he said.
A nationwide scare involving the piercing of various fruits with sewing needles has prompted a series of supermarket recalls, and some stores in New Zealand have temporarily banned the sale of Australian strawberries.
Police have received reports of more than 100 alleged cases of pins and needles being found in strawberries, bananas and mangoes, since the first incident was recorded in Queensland on September 9.
At least two minors have so far been questioned by police but authorities have struggled to find the original culprit as a spate of copycat episodes threaten to bring the industry to its knees.
Sewing needles were taken off the shelves at major Australian supermarket chain Woolworths on Thursday in response to sharp objects being found inside strawberries and other fruits across five states.
"The safety of our customers is our top priority," a retailer spokesperson said.
Yesterday, a young girl reportedly bit into a needle while eating a banana, which was purchased from Redlynch Woolworths in Cairns.
In another incident, Cairns mother Samantha Gray today told Nine News that her five-year-old daughter bit into a strawberry containing a needle, after she purchased a punnet from her local Coles yesterday.
"I was cleaning up and next minute she's coming running to me, 'mum look what's in my strawberry'," Ms Gray said.
"She was holding a strawberry with a needle in it."
QLD Police refused to provide further details on the suspected copycat incident, as more than 100 investigators work to track down those responsible for dozens of sabotage cases involving strawberries and other fruits.
Earlier, New South Wales police confirmed a Coles customer on the Central Coast bought a mango and discovered a needle embedded inside.
Chief Inspector Nigel Webber told the Cental Coast Express Advocate a man had the mango for two days before making the shocking find while cutting it up.
"Police have seized the needle for forensic examination," he said. "No persons were injured."
The Federal Government raised the maximum prison sentence for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years, with Parliament passing the legislation on Thursday.
"I'm just focused on making sure no idiot goes into a supermarket this weekend and does something ridiculous," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Royalla in NSW.
"That's how seriously I take this.
"This is not on. We will act to protect, and keep Australians safe."
Agricultural Minister David Littleproud also lashed out at people spiking strawberries, labelling them "parasites".
"The reality is that … they've got to do some time," Mr Littleproud told ABC radio.
"The one thing that people can do better than government is go and buy strawberries. Stick it up these parasites by going into the supermarkets and buying strawberries."
Australian politicians of all stripes have been quick to appear in front of a camera eating, cutting up and picking strawberries to show their support for farmers.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten appeared in Parliament to ask Australians to buy "a punnet for yourself and a punnet for the nation".