Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters
Australia has ordered an investigation into the discovery of sewing needles found hidden inside strawberries, as the crisis spreads to at least six brands of strawberries in four states.
A minister called the needle sabotage a “vicious crime” amid growing alarm over scares across the country.
At least one man was taken to hospital after eating a strawberry that contained a needle.
The contamination crisis is spreading after metal needles were found in strawberries in Queensland, and as far away as Perth, Tasmania and New Zealand.
Growers and police have suggested that some of these cases could be copycat crimes, following widespread news coverage.
At least six brands have been caught up in the scare including Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis.
Some supermarkets including Coles and Aldi, have pulled all all strawberries from their shelves across the country, except Western Australia, as a precaution.
The Queensland state government offered a A$100,000 (£55,000; $72,000) reward for information but police struggle to solve the case.
“How could any right-minded person want to put a baby or a child or anybody’s health at risk by doing such a dreadful act?” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Saturday.
On Thursday, the Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association said the needles may have been placed by a “disgruntled employee”. However, police said that it was too early to speculate.
The Queensland police commissioner, Ian Stewart, said the investigation was complicated by the vast web of supply chains.
There is also concern that the scare, which has come during the peak of production, could have a negative effect on sales. The strawberry industry is worth about A$130m (£71m) a year.
On Monday, New Zealand’s two largest food distributors – Countdown and Foodstuffs – said they had stopped importing Australian strawberries due to the scare.
Health officials have advised Australians to cut up strawberries before eating them.