Serious steps for strawberry scare
Federal authorities have been pulled into the ongoing strawberry contamination saga.
Police are now dealing with over 100 reports of contaminated fruit, but many are believed to be hoax and copycat incidents.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin says a national investigation, led by Queensland Police, is now underway.
He warned that even the hoaxers are potentially committing serious criminal offences.
“Apart from distracting police from the real task that we have here, this is creating a lot of concern in public and it needs to stop,” Commissioner Colvin said.
Australian Border Force staff have also been assisting the investigation.
“Over three days recently … we provided our mobile x-ray units in support of the Queensland investigation,” Commissioner Michael Outram said.
“Given the harm to our community and the harm to one of our industries it is entirely appropriate that Australian Border Force resources are brought in to support the police effort where appropriate.”
About 100 Queensland Police officers have been moved to the strawberry contamination case, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the copycat attacks and false alarms are really eating up resources.
“The people copying this crime are in many ways worse than those who started it,” she told Parliament.
“A crime scene on a very small number of farms affecting only a small number of products has spread to an entire industry.
“This is something with which the growers have expressed their anger and frustration and I couldn't agree more.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the maximum jail time for those found guilty of contaminating food will be increased from 10 to 15 years.
This came after the Federal Government unveiled a $1 million relief package for strawberry farmers.
The Queensland Government has also put up $1 million to help investigate gaps in the supply chain, assist farmers and promote the industry.
New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are all offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for the strawberry contamination.
“Someone out there knows something,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“You can make your call anonymous.
“We don't care as long as we catch those responsible.”