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Tough New Penalties Now In Place For 'Food Terrorists'

As the hunt for those responsible for sticking needles in Australian strawberries continues, the federal government has ramped up penalties for so-called "food terrorists".

Food tamperers could spent 10 to 15 years behind bars under draft laws passed by the government on Thursday.

The changes were rushed through parliament in less than four hours, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for tough sanctions.

"I'm just focused on making sure no idiot goes into a supermarket this weekend and does something ridiculous," Mr Morrison said.

Labor has called for a review of the changes in 12 months to deal with any unintended consequences, particularly the inclusion of "providing the public with food" in the revised definition of "public infrastructure".

This new definition ties food contamination to national security.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said there had been very "little time to fully consider what the consequences of this legislation might be".

More than 100 reports of tampered fruit are being investigated by police across the country, many of which are thought to be fake or copycat cases.

One young boy in NSW has already been arrested over behaviour that "could be called a prank", police said, and he would be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.

Anyone who tampers with food could soon face up to 15 years in prison, in line with child pornography and terror-financing offences.

There will also be a new offence of being reckless in causing harm, which will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The most serious cases with national security implications will be covered by sabotage offences, with penalties ranging from seven to 25 years.

AAP

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