Ensuring our food remains safe
by Mike Isle
Food safety scares here in New Zealand and across the Tasman, such as the placement of needles in strawberries last year, have made consumers nervous. In response, the food and grocery sector has recommended tougher laws to help deter individuals from carrying out such dangerous and stupid acts.
Unfortunately, the government has failed to respond to these industry pleas, so my colleague, National’s food safety spokesperson, Nathan Guy, has put forward a member’s bill, which would impose stricter penalties on anyone who intentionally contaminates our food or threatens to do so.
Australia has already passed stricter laws in this area, and it is important that our parliament also sends a strong message to anyone who considers food tampering that this will not be tolerated. Food tampering is not only potentially devastating to the livelihoods of our farmers and growers but also poses significant risks for consumers and New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high quality and safe food.
Nathan’s proposed Crimes (Contamination Offences) Amendment Bill would help deter this offending by creating three new offences in the Crimes Act and increasing the associated penalties.
The bill would:
Criminalise the contamination of food to cause public alarm, national economic loss or harm to public health, with a penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
Criminalise making threats to contaminate food for those purposes, with a penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Criminalise hoax statements that cause public alarm, national economic loss or harm to public health, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
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 the economic losses these types of offences can cause.