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‘It’s devastating’: Strawberry farmers question their future as contamination crisis worsens

Anyone who is caught putting needles in fruit will face up to 15 years in jail under strict new laws.

The federal government has announced tougher penalties for anyone caught tampering with food, as our strawberry farmers are being forced to throw out produce, destroy crops and lay-off workers.

One of those farmers is Aiden Young from Braetop berries in Queensland, he tells Ben “my father has been in this for 40 years and even he said he’s never seen anything like this”.

My Young says they are dumping about $10,000 worth of fruit a day and has had to destroy half of his crops.

“It’s devastating, it’s extremely devastating just looking at the amount of fruit that’s being thrown out the back door,” says Mr Young.

“I’ve got friends in the industry that are currently walking around scratching their heads trying to think how they’re going to go again next year, or even finish this year.”

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So far more than 25 cases of strawberries contaminated with sewing needles are currently being investigated. However, more than 100 cases of sabotaged fruit have been reported nationwide.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says any “idiots” who post online hoaxes about fake contamination cases could also face up to 10 years in jail under the new measures, expected to pass parliament as soon as tomorrow.

Furthermore, NSW Police have joined up with their QLD counterparts to offer a $100,000 reward for information leading to arrests.

Strawberry grower from Luvaberry Farm, Mandy Schultz, tells Ben Fordham “I think it’s fabulous, they needed something harsh, they needed something stern and something that would really be a strong deterrent to try and nip this awful situation in the bud”.

“This situation has cascaded very, very quickly… a small minority has damaged a $30-million industry.”

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