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Everything you should know about Australia's needles in fruit crisis.

There’s a lot happening with fruit lately.

Nationwide reports of strawberries contaminated with needles began to emerge last week, with a development today of isolated accounts involving apples and bananas.

Investigations are still underway, and while it is suspected a disgruntled strawberry farm employee was behind the first reported incident, the ensuing cases in neighbouring states have been copycats in what is being labelled ‘commercial terrorism’ by fruit growers.

While a health warning still remains for consumers to cut up or throw out strawberries they’ve purchased, the fruit growing industry faces a potentially multi-million dollar blow as products are pulled from local shelves and exports banned by international trade partners.

Here’s what’s happening:

How it all started.

Last Wednesday, health officials and police said sewing needles were hidden in at least three punnets of strawberries supplied to Woolworths from a southeast Queensland farm.

Following the Queensland investigation, two people in Victoria came forward with similar experiences.

Sewing needles have since been found in strawberries in all six states, with eight incidents in NSW, six in Victoria, four in Queensland, four in WA, three in SA and one in Tasmania.

Today, news.com.au reported a woman found a needle in a Pink Lady apple purchased from Woolworths. Woolworths has been advised by the NSW Department of Health not to remove the apples from their shelves for now as investigations continue.

NSW Police also said there were “isolated” reports of bananas and apples in the Sydney area being contaminated, and according to Seven News, they are investigating a complaint about a needle found inside a banana at a grocery store in Condell Park.

So far only one person is believed to have swallowed part of a needle – a 21-year-old man from Burpengary in Queensland.

Brands and supermarkets affected.

According to reports, eight separate brands of strawberries have been contaminated: Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Delightful Strawberries, Oasis, Mal’s Black Label and Pinata.

Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries have recalled their strawberries nationwide.

Coles and Aldi have both pulled all strawberries from their shelves, except in Western Australia.

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Woolworths confirmed it had removed the Oasis, Love Berry, Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook brands from its shelves.

What are strawberry farmers saying?

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz has labelled the issue “commercial terrorism”.

“I’m angry for all the associated people, it’s the farmers, the people who supply them, the packaging people, the truckies with families to support, who suddenly lose their jobs … it’s far-reaching,” he said.

While a farmer in Queensland says he will install a metal detector to check his produce, others are destroying their crops, rather than pick them, to save money, The Courier-Mail reported.

Stephanie Chheang, the daughter of Donnybrook Berries co-owner Leena Lee Cufari, shared footage of the impact the ongoing scare has had on her family’s Queensland business. A truckload of fruit, dumped – just in case.

“This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family,” she wrote on Facebook. “This here is worth more then you could ever imagine and within three days we lost it all.

“My mum and my stepdad has worked years to build the empire they’re sitting on now, they put all their money and effort in to build such a successful business. They work hard to make the money for our family and to have these selfish individuals destroy it is just so upsetting.”

As reported by news.com.au, Strawberries Australia Inc Queensland spokesman Ray Daniels is urging shoppers not to stop buying strawberries.

“We produce 800,000 punnets a day and seven needles were found. You’ve got more chance of winning lotto than being affected.

“I would call on people to go out and buy strawberries today but please, cut them up to check.”

What officials are doing.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered Food Standards Australia New Zealand to investigate possible changes to supply chain systems.

News.com.au today reported Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie, the federal minister responsible for food policy, issued a statement after overseas suppliers halted strawberry exports while investigations continue.

“While these isolated incidents are being investigated I encourage people to continue to support the Australian strawberry industry, which is valued at over half a billion dollars and employs thousands of Australians,” Senator McKenzie said.

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Has anyone been caught?

Police are still searching for the culprit behind the first case of sewing needles embedded inside Queensland strawberry stocks.

A 62-year-old woman, who is believed to be mentally ill, was caught sticking a needle into a banana in a shop in Mackay, Queensland. She was given a warning.

Today, a young boy from NSW was arrested after admitting to putting needles in strawberries after admitting he performed the act as “a prank”.

“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,” NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said.

As reported by news.com.au, NSW Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said food contamination was a serious offence with a potential 10-year jail sentence.

“The consequences are dire,” Superintendent Doherty said. “It’s an act of treachery on the community of NSW and across the nation.”

What’s happening now?

A health warning remains in place to throw out or cut up strawberries across most of Australia.

Queensland Strawberry Industry Officer Jennifer Rowlings said some trade partners in Russia and the UK have blocked Australian imports.

Exporters must prove their fruit has been cleared through a metal detector or x-ray machine before the federal Department of Agriculture will issue a permit.

The Queensland Government, which is leading the overall response, has promised a $100,000 reward for information that may lead to the capture of the culprit.

What to do if you find a needle:

Authorities are urging people to slice their fruit prior to consumption, and contact police immediately if they find needles.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said: “Remember, if in doubt, throw them out. Otherwise, make sure you chop before you chomp.”

Anyone who believes they might have swallowed a needle should call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or speak to their GP.

Anyone with information that could assist the police investigation is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Anyone who finds a needle should call police on 131 444.

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