Farmers and growers have backed the proposal of a Member's Bill that will create stronger penalties for deliberate food contamination.

The Crimes (Contamination Offences) Amendment Bill, announced today, would introduce harsher penalties for people who intentionally contaminate food, or threaten to do so.

The Bill, which has been drafted by National MP Nathan Guy, comes in the wake of last year's Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences in New Zealand.

Thousands of strawberries had to be destroyed as a result of the scare.


Federated Farmers welcomes the bill but said any action from it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact.

Food Safety spokesperson for Federated Farmers, Andrew Hoggard said deliberate food contamination, or threats of it, hurt the country's ability to exist and are "acts of treason, piracy, espionage and corruption."

"Our country is built on and relies on primary industries to keep the current living standards we all enjoy. We need to be able to trade products safely. Our trading partners need to be able to rely on us."

"You do not deliberately contaminate food without wanting to cause terror. These are deliberate acts designed to cause incredible anxiety and economic sabotage."

Hoggard said if tougher penalties were 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.

"Politicians at all levels are great at talking about harsher penalties and regulations, but are very relaxed about the details on how those processes will work and how they'll be funded."

Horticulture New Zealand also supports the Bill.


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

"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."

"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."