Although Smith offered few details about the investigation, he did indicate that the suspect, a minor, had committed the offense as part of a prank. "In the last two days, we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he'll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system," he told reporters.
According to the AU edition of the International Business Times, had the culprit been an adult, they would've likely faced up to 10 years in jail for the crime.
The announcement came after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a video statement earlier in the day that announced he would be introducing harsh penalties for anyone who commits a similar act in the future.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 19, 2018
"I know many Australians are very concerned about what's been happening with the strawberries and what some idiot has done in disrupting and damaging an entire industry, and making parents worried all around the country," Morrison said.
"Today, I announced that we're putting in some tough new laws, not just to increase the penalties for people who do this already, but for those who go on YouTube or think it's a big lark to go on and stick pins in fruit. It's not funny. It's not right. It's causing real distress and harm in our community, and it's got to stop," he continued.
The Wednesday announcements came as a Newcastle primary school student alerted administrators to a needle-contaminated banana she had in her lunch box, New Zealand Herald reported.
The scare, which began raising alarms some two weeks ago, first sprang up in Australia's Queensland before spreading to the remaining five states.
With several fruit brands such as Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis having been contaminated with needles, officials urged Australians to cut up their fruit and inspect it before consuming.
Prior to the minor's arrest, Neil Handasyde, president of the Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia, told local media outlets that farmers were looking to various methods, including the use of metal detectors, to verify that their products weren't tampered with, Sputnik previously reported. Major supermarkets in Australia, including Coles and Aldi, went as far as pulling all strawberries from their shelves as a precaution.
The Queensland government was offering nearly $73,000 for any information that led to those responsible for the needle crimes. It's unclear if the funds have been dispersed.