27 Aug 2013

Beekeepers support single standards call

7:11 am on 27 August 2013

Beekeepers are supporting calls for a single set of standards for New Zealand manuka honey.

The move follows Britain's Food Standards Agency issuing a warning about the large number of honey products carrying false manuka labels. There were also claims in Hong Kong last month about New Zealand manuka honey being adulterated with sugar to bulk it out.

New Zealand Bee Products Standards Council chair Jim Edwards says those issues will continue to surface until the industry adopts a single set of standards and testing for the high-priced honey.

Federated Farmers' Bee Industry group chairman John Hartnell agrees.

"What we need to see is a standard that's out there that is internationally recognised, that all testing facilities throughout the world can replicate that test and come out with the same answer," Mr Hartnell said.

National Beekeepers Association president Ricki Leahy says manuka honey producers have their honey tested to verify its quality, and he wonders whether the false labelling issue is more to do with honey exported in bulk.

"That's in drums and, of course, once it's overseas well, basically, we lose control of it," Mr Leahy says.

The Bee Products Standards Council is due to meet on Wednesday and Mr Leahy is sure the issue will be discussed at length.

"Hopefully we will get some sort of a standard for our manuka honey sooner than later now," he says.

"Then we've all got the same standard to work with and it will make it much harder for people to be cowboys with our product."

Producers urged to follow codex system

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye is expecting a manuka honey labelling guideline to emerge in the next month but says an international standard is needed above all else.

However, Airborne Honey managing director Peter Bray says that already exists under the Food and Agriculture Organisation's codex system and New Zealand needs to follow that.

The codex lays out basic requirements for labelling honey, and processor and marketer Airborne Honey has been doing that for the past 40 years, Mr Bray says.

"If you believe that honey has some magical property that is going to cure cancer, the plague, warts, pestilence and create world peace, then you may not want to follow the codex," he says.