Needles found in strawberries stir food-contamination fears across Australia

Image: Strawberry needles scare in Australia
A thin piece of metal was found in a container of strawberries, in Gladstone, Australia, in this photo released Sept. 17.   -  Copyright  Queensland Police via EPA
By Angel Torres and The Associated Press  with NBC News World News

The search for the strawberry-tampering culprit continues, as needles are being found in strawberries all over Australia

Strawberries are flying off the shelves in Australia — but the reason isn't so sweet.

Select strawberry brands have been taken from shelves all over Australia and New Zealand after needles started cropping up inside pieces of the fruit.

Public health authorities for Australia's state of Queensland put out an alert stating it is safe to purchase the fruit from brands still on the shelves, but noted consumers should still take necessary precautions and check their strawberries before eating them.

The spiked pieces of fruit have sent at least one person to the hospital, a man who unknowingly swallowed half a sewing needle. A 7-year-old girl also discovered a needle, but was not injured.

"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," Premier and Minister for Trade Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Authorities have offered a $72,000 reward for information leading lead to the arrest of those responsible.

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said in a statement that it had "reason to suspect" the culprit to be a former employee and is working with Queensland police to find the culprit.

The sharpened strawberries have sent at least one person to the hospital — a man who unknowingly swallowed half a sewing needle. A 7-year-old girl also found a needle in a strawberry, but no injuries ensued, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier this month, a 62-year-old woman was accused of planting a needle inside a banana. Queensland Police do not believe the banana incident is connected.

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