National calls for stronger penalties for people who contaminate food

Breakfast 15/01/2019
Photo: File.

After several needle scares across the ditch this year, the National Party is calling for stricter penalties for those caught contaminating food in New Zealand.

Punnets of strawberries were found contaminated with needles in Australia and New Zealand last year, leading to several arrests.

But National food safety spokesperson Nathan Guy says New Zealand needs to follow Australia's response to the string of crimes  - with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison already increasing the maximum jail time sentence for contaminating food last September.

Anyone caught contaminating food in Australia will now see a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, even applying to anyone who jokes or makes false statements about food contamination.

In New Zealand, intentionally contaminating food can currently earn an offender up to 10 years of jail time.

"At the moment we're seen as a soft touch in comparison to across the Tasman," Mr Guy told RadioLIVE.

Mr Guy has announced a members bill he says will align New Zealand laws with Australia and help protect New Zealanders.

"Industry has been calling for it and we need to move on it."

Mr Guy's Crimes (Contaminated Offences) Amendment Bill proposes to criminalise hoax statements that cause public harm to 10 years in prison, and increase the maximum sentence for intentional contamination from 10 to 14 years.

He hopes the proposed bill will make anyone considering a hoax or copycat incident "will think twice" before acting.

"This will capture those people who are choosing to be stupid and create a hoax event."