New Zealand’s NZ$120-million manuka honey sector is in crisis as tests around the world find the product often has nothing but price to set it apart from ordinary honey.
All manuka honey comes from New Zealand and Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association research shows 1,700 tonnes produced each year.
But 1,800 tonnes of “manuka” honey is sold in Britain alone each year with as much as 10,000 tons sold worldwide.
Of the 73 samples of honey tested by the association, 41 failed to show the non-peroxide activity claimed for manuka honey. Hong Kongauthorities found 14 of 55 manuka honey samples tested were adulterated with syrup. Other tests found some of the honey was not manuka.
The New Zealand Herald reports Britain's Food and Environment Research Agency tested a small sample of five brands of manuka honey from shop shelves. Only one, made by Comvita, the biggest manuka honey producer, was up to standard. The other four showed no detectable non-peroxide activity, the anti-bacterial properties special to manuka honey.
Britain's Food Standards Agency then issued a nationwide warning about misleading claims on the labels of manuka honey jars.
Manuka honey commands prices 10 to 20 times higher than other types of honey because of its anti-bacterial properties and New Zealand Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said on Radio New Zealand the government and the honey industry need to move quickly to set an international labeling standard.
UMF Honey Association president John Rawcliffe tells the Herald the UK crackdown was due.
“There is potentially huge fraud,” he says. “There are higher and ever-increasing volumes of honey labeled as manuka which are not manuka.
“We knew we sold more ‘manuka' overseas than has ever been produced . . . we've been spending everything we've got to work out how to stop this fraud, and the only negative thing is that we should have done it quicker.”