1 Jul 2015

New claims of false honey labelling

6:58 am on 1 July 2015

The sticky issue of false labelling of manuka honey has raised its head again.

The Ministry for Primary Industries wants to be able to more accurately define the properties of manuka honey.

The Ministry for Primary Industries wants to be able to more accurately define the properties of manuka honey. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

A New Zealand honey company says that the amount of so-called manuka honey being exported far outstrips the actual production.

The managing director of Canterbury-based Airborne Honey, Peter Bray, said export figures for last year suggested that premium-priced manuka honey made up more than 70 percent of total sales, or over 6000 tonnes.

He said that revealed a significant discrepancy with the actual production volume.

"Basically there isn't enough manuka honey being produced to meet the levels that are shown going out in the export statistics, at the prices they're going out at.

"There's an insatiable demand for manuka honey that is being sold in export markets at extremely high prices, and there are no standards or regulations in New Zealand that are creating a gate, if you like, through which everything's assessed."

The Primary Industries Ministry (MPI) introduced interim labelling rules for manuka honey last year, but they are not due to take effect until January next year.

Mr Bray said the voluntary interim guidelines did nothing meaningful to prevent other honey varieties being blended with manuka and then labelled and sold as manuka honey, when at best it they were, in fact, a manuka blend.

He said recognised world standards required a honey to be "wholly or mainly" made from the named source on the label, yet a high proportion of honey sold as manuka failed to meet this threshold.