National’s Food Safety spokesperson Nathan Guy is backing calls from the food and grocery sector for tougher penalties for those who intentionally contaminate our food or threaten to do so.

“My Member’s Bill seeks to achieve what Damien O’Connor appears unwilling to do – protect New Zealanders from those that would threaten our food safety, be they reckless pranksters or people intent on nothing less than economic sabotage.

“Recent events here in New Zealand and across the Tasman, such as the strawberry needle scares, have identified the need for greater sanctions to prevent these sorts of idiotic behaviours. The food and grocery sector has been ignored in its calls for tougher laws.

“Australia has already acted, passing stricter laws that seek to deter these criminals who contaminate food and water sources. New Zealand now lags behind our near neighbour, meaning offenders have less to fear if they are caught.

“Food tampering is not only economic sabotage on farmers and growers but also poses significant risks for consumers and New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high quality and safe food.

“Parliament should send a strong message to anyone who considers food tampering. New Zealand should not be seen as a soft touch, and it is unacceptable that the Government has ignored calls from industry for stiffer penalties.

“New Zealand’s current penalties for these crimes are aligned with those for offences relating to dishonesty and conspiracy. We would argue that this is much more serious.

“The Crimes (Contamination Offences) Amendment Bill would help deter this offending by creating three new offences in the Crimes Act and will increase those penalties to align them with the more serious offences of corruption, espionage, treason and piracy.

“The Bill would:

  • Criminalise the contamination of food to cause public alarm, national economic loss or harm to public health with a penalty level of 14 years imprisonment.
  • Criminalise making threats to contaminate food for those purposes with a penalty level of 10 years.
  • Criminalise hoax statements that cause public alarm, national economic loss or harm to public health to 10 years.
  • See the maximum term of imprisonment for intentionally contaminating food increase from 10 to 14 years.

“This Bill recognises the serious physical, psychological and economic effects of such actions. New Zealanders need to know their food is safe and manufacturers should be protected from economic loss such offenders can cause.

“I call on all parties in Parliament to support what is a common sense response to threats to our food safety. New Zealand shouldn’t be held to ransom by a reckless and foolish few.

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