The Australian government has offered a reward to anyone with information following reports of strawberries being contaminated with needles and pins, in what the federal health minister has called "a vicious crime."
Reports of needles in strawberries spread to two additional states, police said Monday, broadening a food scare which began in the state of Queensland last week when a man was admitted to the hospital with stomach pains after eating strawberries.
"Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia, they are putting an entire industry at risk," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Saturday.
Her government is offering a $100,000 AUD ($71,000 USD) reward to anyone who can provide information that would lead to a conviction.
Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the Food Safety Authority of Australia and New Zealand to investigate the crime, calling it a "general attack on the public," and has advised consumers to slice strawberries.
Police have said at least two people have reported finding needles in their strawberries in the last two days. Authorities believe that as many as six brands could have been contaminated, but are unclear whether the crime is the result of one person acting alone or a coordinated group.
The state of Queensland is a major strawberry producer in a national industry worth over $93 million USD a year.