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Strawberry sabotage: Greg Hunt orders investigation into 'vicious crime'

The health minister, Greg Hunt, has ordered the national food safety watchdog to assess the state’s handling of strawberry contamination.

It comes as police investigate claims that needle sabotage has now spread to six brands of strawberries in four states.

Coles and Aldi supermarkets have pulled all strawberries from their shelves across the country, except Western Australia, as a precaution over needle contamination fears.

Berry Obsession, Berry Licious and Donnybrook Berries branded fruit have recalled their strawberries nationwide.

Police are also investigating contamination of fruit sold by Delightful Strawberries, Love Berries and Oasis in stores in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.

“This is a very vicious crime and it’s a general attack on the public, and it’s also an attack on a specific industry,” Hunt told reporters on Sunday.

Hunt said while it was primarily a problem for the states, he had asked his department to request Food Standards Australia New Zealand make an “immediate appraisal” of the situation.

Investigators fear copycats may be behind the latest discovery of needles and pins inside the supermarket strawberries, with consumers warned to continue to cut up any fruit not on the recall list before eating it.

Authorities are hopeful a $100,000 reward for information offered by the Queensland government will lead to the capture of the culprit or culprits.

“Remember if in doubt, throw them out, otherwise, make sure you chop before you chomp,” Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said.

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