Sewing needles were taken off the shelves at a major Australian supermarket chain on Thursday amid a national panic over sharp objects being found inside strawberries and other fruit.
Woolworths, one of the country's big two supermarkets, announced that it had "taken the precautionary step" of temporarily withdrawing needles from sale, as police struggled to find the original culprit amid a spate of copycat episodes. "The safety of our customers is our top priority", a Woolworths spokeswoman told AAP.
As reported by SBS News, police are investigating more than 100 reports of fruit tampering nationwide.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday morning that a 12-year-old girl had been caught putting a needle into a strawberry at her Blue Mountains school.
But with demand plunging, strawberry farmers have been forced to dump produce, casting a shadow over an industry worth A$160 million ($115.84 million).
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the "parasites" responsible for spiking strawberries with needles should do hard time in jail.
Needles have also been discovered in an apple and a banana, NSW Police confirmed on Tuesday.
One young boy has already been arrested over behaviour that "could be called a prank", police said, and he would be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.
Morrison plans to increase the maximum sentence for food contamination from 10 years to 15 in a bid to deter offenders, especially copycats.
The supermarket giant literally pulled the pin following the crises across Australia which saw several fruits tampered with.
Under Section 13 of the Food Act 1983, any party involved in importing, distributing, storing or selling food containing toxic, damaging or harmful to health shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or a maximum imprisonment of 10 years or both, upon conviction.
Are you still buying strawberries?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants the tough sanctions approved before federal politicians depart Canberra on Thursday.
"It's not amusing, putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk", the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.
The Queensland and Western Australian governments are offering similar rewards.
'It is beyond belief that anybody would deliberately sabotage fruit to try and harm people in the process, harm our hardworking fruit farmers and the industry, ' she told parliament.