Someone keeps messing with the strawberries in Australia.
Since last week, there are now more than 100 people who’ve reported contamination incidents around the country, according to ABC News.
Now there’s a federal investigation and the threat of serious jail time for those responsible.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that he would introduce increased penalties for contaminating food from 10 to 15 years jail time.
“What you get 15 years for are things like possessing child pornography and financing terrorism. That’s our seriously our government takes it — that’s how seriously I take it,” Morrison said on Wednesday.
The Australian government would also look at introducing specific laws relating to the reckless tampering of fruit.
These steeper penalties come as strawberry producers are worried over how the contamination scare is threatening their livelihoods.
A now-viral video by Stephanie Chheang shows truckloads of strawberries which have been dumped, apparently due to the incident.
“This is no doubt the worst thing to ever happen to my family,” she wrote. “This here is a video of our strawberries being dumped, this here is worth more [than] you could ever imagine and within 3 days we lost it all.”
Chheang claimed in the post that markets wouldn’t take the strawberries due to the needle scare.
Growers are already looking into metal detectors, while Australia’s government announced funding to help resolve the contamination issue.
In the meantime, consumers are still encouraged to buy and eat strawberries, but also to exercise caution. Except for certain strawberry brands like Berry Licious, Berry Obsession and Donnybrook, which people are advised to throw out or return to the store.
“For all other brands, our advice remains that you can continue to eat strawberries, but you should cut them up before eating,” Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said.
“Remember if in doubt, throw them out. Otherwise, make sure you chop before you chomp.”
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