CANBERRA, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Minister for Health Greg Hunt has launched an investigation into strawberry contamination after needles have been found in the fruit nationwide.
Pins and needles have been found in strawberries from at least six brands in four Australian states, and supermarkets have pulled all strawberries from shelves as a precaution.
Police have launched investigations into the brands, saying they believe disgruntled employees are behind the attacks.
One consumer has been hospitalized after eating a contaminated strawberry.
Hunt on Monday announced that he has asked Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the body responsible for administering the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, to make an "immediate appraisal" of the situation.
"We have also tasked the federal agency to investigate whether there are supply chain weaknesses, whether there are actions that we can take to assist the police, whether there are systemic changes which are required," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.
"At the end of the day, the job is very, very clear. Protect the public and keep them safe."
He described it as a "vicious crime" that targeted the agriculture industry as well as consumers.
Authorities have expressed fears that copycat culprits are responsible for the uptick in the number of reported cases.
The Queensland state government has offered a 100,000 Australian dollar (71,500 U.S. dollar) reward for information that leads to the capture of the culprit or culprits.
Health authorities in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania have been advised to either throw out their strawberries or cut them up before eating them.