Aussie agriculture minister calls for prison sentence for strawberry needle offenders

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Authorities in Queensland have offered a 400,000 Australian dollars (71,4000 U.S. dollars) reward for information that leads to the arrest of the culprit or culprits.

"My thoughts are with every farmer caught up in this and the Coalition is always looking at ways to help farmers and we will continue to monitor developments as this unfolds."

CANBERRA, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud on Tuesday demanded prison sentences for the offenders responsible for placing pins and needles in strawberries.

Contaminated strawberries have been sold in every Australian state except Western Australia and the fruits have been removed from supermarket shelves as a precaution.

Littleproud's comments came as it was revealed that the Australian Border Force (ABF) had joined the investigation and was prepared to deport any offender if they had come from a foreign country.

Initial speculation was that a disgruntled employee was responsible for the contamination but as more cases have come to light authorities have expressed concerns about copycat offenders.

The stipulation means that a large percentage of Australia's agricultural workforce is on a temporary visa.

"State agencies need to throw the book at (the offenders). Whoever this idiot is, is lucky they haven't hurt anybody. I'd expect penalties to include jail time," he told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

The contamination has been traced back to farms in Queensland and New South Wales.

One person has been hospitalized after eating a contaminated strawberry.

Under Australian laws, people in Australia holding working holiday visas can only have their visa extended for a second year if they complete 88 days of paid work in regional Australia.

In his first comments on the contamination scare, Littleproud said that the government would support farmers impacted by the contamination however they could.