TWO popular strawberry brands have been recalled from Woolworths stores across three states, including NSW, with a disgruntled former employee accused of deliberately inserting sewing needles into the fruit.
"I'm out here today to advise people if they've bought any strawberries in Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria since early last week, that they should dispose of them", Queensland Health's chief health officer Jeanette Young said.
The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association believes a disgruntled farm worker may be responsible but police say they are investigating all aspects of the strawberry transit process.
Authorities said that the contaminated strawberries-branded Berrylicious and Berry Obsession-came from two farms located next to each other in south-east Queensland.
Canberrans who have bought fresh strawberries recently are being urged to check the brand after sewing needles were found in some berries interstate.
Police said they believed another case to be a copycat - a small silver rod was found sitting on top of strawberries in a punnet purchased at a Coles in Gatton.
Acting Queensland Chief Superintendent of the State Crime Command Terry Lawrence said the evidence indicates the act was "obviously" meant to injure others.
"Luckily, in each of those cases, the needles were found within the strawberry by the person who had purchased them when cutting the strawberries, as we had asked them to do", he said.
"While no other brands of strawberries have been implicated, if consumers are concerned, they should consider chopping them up before consumption".
She referred to the problem as "an isolated incident" and "sabotage".
She said that with the affected products having been taken off the shelves, the public can now feel safe eating strawberries, adding that the incidents.
"We're fairly confident if people do come forward with a needle in a strawberry, particularly with the packaging, that will provide us with some information", he said.
"We want everybody to check their strawberries before consuming them ... just cut them up, have a look", Supt Lawrence said.
Authorities are continuing to liaise with retailers to ensure that all stock from the affected date have been removed from sale.
Police are looking at possible copycat contaminators.
Only weeks ago, some supermarkets dropped the price of strawberries as low as $1 per punnet to help suppliers move tonnes of excess produce.
However, Chief Superintendent Lawrence said the police investigation was ongoing and detectives were examining every part of the supply chain to find the contamination source.
"We could be finished by the weekend", he said.
Queensland Strawberry Growers industry development officer Jennifer Rowling said the farmer had stopped all production of the fruit in response to the urgent product recall issued on Wednesday.
"We're not going to speculate at this stage".