There are only 10 days left for the manuka honey industry to
have its say on what guidelines should be used to define its
Last week, Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye announced the
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has produced a
discussion document asking the industry and scientists to
help it come up with a way to define manuka honey so it can
be true to label.
There is no international standard specifically for manuka
honey and the New Zealand honey industry has been unable to
agree on a standard despite decades of discussion.
Recently, overseas markets have questioned the authenticity
of some New Zealand manuka honey and market access is at
risk, which has added urgency to the issue.
In late August, New Zealand's Bee Products Standards Council
invited representatives of the manuka honey industry to a
meeting to discuss the issue once again.
Ms Kaye attended the meeting and told the group the industry
needed to work faster because the spotlight was on New
Zealand and products would be subject to greater scrutiny
from regulators and the media.
She said MPI officials had been asked to work with the
industry to produce a guideline and signalled regulatory
controls could well be imposed.
If the industry could not agree on a guideline then the MPI
would produce one.
Ms Kaye told the industry representatives regulators wanted
to see something more than voluntary guidelines.
Federated Farmers Bees chairman John Hartnell told Courier
Country the meeting had ''not really resolved a way forward''
on the ''very difficult subject''.
The industry had been trying to resolve the issue for
''We're seeing a bit of action on it now.
''There's some pressure to get it done.''
MPI had put three options on the table in its discussion
document and he strongly urged those affected to contribute
rather than having regulation imposed on them.
"You can't sit on your hands, you have to get involved.''
Defining manuka honey was problematic and a challenge, Mr
Mr Hartnell said he had found the internationally accepted
Codex Alimentarius a tried-and-tested standard which had
served him well in his 40 years of exporting. However, it did
not measure antibacterial activity or antioxidant properties.
National Beekeepers Association (NBA) president Ricki Leahy
said it was ''very supportive'' of MPI's moves.
''We [the industry] almost get a decision [on a standard]
then someone raises another point.''
He said it would remove the potential for misrepresentation
in labelling and ''stabilises the whole industry''.
NBA had sent all its member copies of the submission form and
was encouraging them to have their say.
'' ... so MPI can collate all the ideas and formulate
something - the sooner the better,'' Mr Leahy said.
The consultation document can be found here
Submission close at 5pm, Monday, September 30, 2013.
A draft guideline will be released for comment in October
before final guidelines are issued in late October.
Once the guidelines have been issued, MPI will look into
regulatory options and talk with overseas regulators to
decide if regulations are necessary.
This is expected to take about three months.
THE CHALLENGE OF ACCURATELY DEFINING MANUKA HONEY
The long-standing method is to identify pollen levels in a
honey and so prove it is monofloral manuka.
This is a principle of the Codex Alimentarius, the
international standard for honey.
Because manuka honey has been shown to have medicinal
properties different from other honeys some producers have
chosen to promote this by putting a measurement of the
non-peroxide antibacterial activity (the presence of
methylglyoxal or MG levels) on labels.
However, confusion can occur because manuka honey can have
high levels of pollen but it can exhibit low levels of
activity - and vice versa - it can have high levels of
activity but have a very low manuka pollen count.
Also activity levels in manuka honey change depending on
where it is gathered and levels drop significantly as you
move south through the country.
MPI is asking for discussion and scientific evidence in
support of, or against, labelling guidelines based on three
1. a definition based on pollen count.
2. a definition based on methylglyoxal content.
3. a definition based on methylglyoxal content and pollen