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Australian-Grown Strawberries Laced with Needles Sparks Nationwide Scare

Empty shelves, normally stocked with strawberry punnets, are seen at a Coles Supermarket in Brisbane, Australia, Sept. 14, 2018.

Australia is dealing with a nationwide food scare involving strawberries inserted with sewing needles.

The tainted fruit was first discovered last week in the northern state of Queensland, and has since spread to all six Australian states. The scare has prompted massive recalls of the popular fruit from supermarket shelves, and forced strawberry farmers to destroy their crops, threatening the viability of the $115 million industry.

The scare has even spread over into New Zealand, where some stores have temporarily banned the sale of Australian strawberries.

Officials in Queensland have offered a $72,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the tampering. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged lawmakers to increase the penalty for food tampering from 10 to 15 years.

"It's not a joke, it's not funny, you're putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you're scaring children," Prime Minister Morrison said Wednesday. "You're a coward and you're a grub and if you do that sort of thing in this country we will come after you."