Horticulture New Zealand supports a Member's Bill, announced today, that will introduce harsher penalties for people who intentionally contaminate food, or threaten to do so.
"Recently, we have seen some incidents of intentional contamination of fruit in both Australia and New Zealand and people need to understand the full and serious implications of such sabotage," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.
"People may think they are being funny but in fact, they could damage the international reputation of New Zealand as a source of safe food, affecting our trade and consequently, the country’s balance sheet. They can also cause economic, physical, and psychological damage to food producers who may have to destroy crops, lay off staff, and deal with reputational damage. There could be food shortages, and there are certainly impacts on consumers, particularly those who are on the receiving end of any deliberate contamination and the stress that might cause them.
"These are serious impacts and we believe intentional acts to contaminate food, or threaten to do so, should be aligned in law with similar crimes and aligned with penalties in Australia.
"We believe there should be stricter penalties to act as a deterrent to people thinking about contaminating food, so that they know they are facing a long stint in prison if they do this.
"A woman in Australia faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, if convicted, for charges of goods contamination after needles were found in strawberries there. We would like to see people convicted for similar crimes in New Zealand face similar sentences.
"New Zealand food producers have many systems and processes in place to ensure they provide safe food, and spend a lot of time and money meeting all the requirements to do that. If their food is sabotaged once it leaves their business, they can rightly expect that to be treated as a crime, and punished in proportion to the serious impacts."
The Crimes (Contamination Offences) Amendment Bill has been drafted by National MP Nathan Guy.