Industry groups back plans to clampdown on food sabotage

Rural industry groups are supporting a move to introduce harsher penalties for deliberate contamination of food.

National's Nathan Guy has proposed a member's bill that would increase potential prison terms for anyone caught contaminating food.

The Crimes (Contamination Offences) Amendment Bill comes in the wake of last year's Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences here.

Horticulture New Zealand is among those applauding Mr Guy's move. 

"People need to understand the full and serious implications of such sabotage, said chief executive Mike Chapman.

"They 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," he said.

He said the stricter penalties would 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.

Meanwhile Federated Farmers is also supporting the members bill, although warns it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact.

"Our country is built on and relies on primary industries to keep the current living standards we all enjoy," said food safety spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Andrew Hoggard said any law change must be backed up with adequate resources.
Andrew Hoggard said any law change must be backed up with adequate resources. Photo credit: Newshub

"Any threats and attacks on our nation's ability to function must be treated as what they are - acts of treason, piracy, espionage and corruption," he said.

He said if tougher penalties are to be introduced they must be backed with resourcing.

"There's no point in waving a flag about an issue and then not resourcing organisations such as the police, the judiciary or the Ministry for Primary Industries to follow through with enforcement."

Retail NZ said it was delighted with the move.

"It is essential that New Zealanders have confidence in the food and grocery sector," said 

Retail NZ's General Manager Public Affairs Greg Harford.

"While industry is doing its bit to safeguard security, we believe it is essential that there is a specific criminal offence dealing with this issue," he said.