Australia offers reward amid mystery strawberry needle scare

It's a crime so odd that any motive seems almost inconceivable.

Queensland Health said in a Thursday tweet that "consumers should cut up strawberries before consuming them", even if they're not from one of the six named makers.

ABC News reported on Saturday that wholesale prices have halved to 50 Australian cents per punnet below the cost of production in Western Australia, where strawberries crops are now peaking, with growers forced to dump tonnes of the fruit.

"This is putting families' lives at risk and it's also putting the strawberry industry at risk ..."

The Queensland government is now offering a $100,000 reward for any information that will help police catch those behind the strawberry needle sabotage scandal. "It is simply unacceptable".

Australians have been warned to cut open fresh strawberries before biting into them after multiple customers reported finding sewing needles hidden inside. "I am furious about this".

WA Strawberry Growers Association spokesman Jamie Michael said strawberries in WA shops and markets at this time of year were all grown in WA, so there was no risk of sabotaged fruit from Queensland being imported.

The incidents have been piling up, with contaminated strawberries found with needles purchased at supermarkets in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

"Whereas we would normally be selling 30 tonnes a day of locally grown strawberries to WA markets, it has dropped to 20 tonnes". A number of grocers have removed the berries from their shelves.

"We've got to look at this as a whole, it's a very, very broad picture and we can't speculate in any way, shape or form", Queensland Acting Chief Superintendent Terry Lawrence told reporters on Friday.

Australia's strawberry industry is worth some A$130m ($94m; £70m) a year and there are concerns that such incidents could have a lasting detrimental impact on sales.

Health officials have urged people purchasing the fruit to be cautious.

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