Canberra – People found guilty of contaminating fruit in Australia will face up to 15 years imprisonment under tough new laws announced on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter announced the changes in response to nationwide strawberry contamination, which consumers found pins and needles in their fruits.
Morrison described those responsible as “cowards” and “grubs” but urged Australians to buy strawberries to support farmers.
“It’s not a joke, it’s not funny.
“You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you are scaring children, and you are a coward and a grub.
“Some idiot, for his own reasons, has engaged in an act of sabotage it would seem, and that has put all of that risk for these people out there having a go,’’ he told newsmen.
“If you do that sort of thing in this country, we will come after you and we will throw the book at you.
Porter confirmed that the new laws, which will increase the maximum jail time for contaminating food from 10 to 15 years, would be drafted and put to parliament for a vote within days.
“Even if they did not intend that to be consumed by someone, you are potentially engaging in a very serious behaviour,’’ he said.
The new laws put the maximum penalty for contaminating food on par with that for possessing child pornography and financing terrorism.
“That’s how seriously I take this. And that’s how seriously our government takes it.
“I don’t care if you have a gripe with the company, I don’t care if you have a gripe with your fellow worker, this is a very serious thing which is damaging our economy, but it is affecting families,’’ Morrison said.
Authorities are continuing to search for those responsible for the strawberry contamination outbreak.