The Government and the honey industry need to move quickly to
set labelling guidelines for manuka honey after a nationwide
warning was issued in Britain, Food Safety Minister Nikki
The UK's Food Standards Agency issued the warning about
misleading and illegal claims made on the labels of manuka
Ms Kaye this morning said she took the damage to the New
Zealand brand very seriously and an international labelling
standard for manuka honey was needed.
"It's really important when it comes to food to have
integrity on the label, that's why in the short term I think
here is a need for a guideline," she told Radio New Zealand.
"I know the industry have been meeting with the Ministry for
Primary Industries and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to
work through that in the short term, but in the long term
there needs to be an international standard."
Ms Kaye said the industry and officials were meeting again
this week, and they would have to move quickly on the
She said part of the difficulty was around the science.
"Because in order to get a correct label, you have to land on
what that label is going to say. And part of the difficulty
is that there aren't any clear scientific markers at the
moment, so the whole debate is around what that label says."
Ms Kaye said it needed to be done right because there was a
huge opportunity for honey producers.
"People do want manuka honey and if we can get that label
right then there is a huge opportunity to grow the industry."
UMF Honey Association general manager John Rawcliffe said
consumers in New Zealand and overseas could be confident the
producers of products bearing the UMFHA quality trademark had
been subjected to rigorous testing.
He said manuka honey was highly sought after globally but was
in short supply.
"And with consumers prepared to pay a premium, it is open to
abuse by unscrupulous organisations. The UMFHA and the
members it represents place a high priority on ensuring that
consumers are able to make informed choices and that UMF
manuka honey is true to label."
Mr Rawcliffe said the association had formed partnerships
with overseas agencies to create a testing regime, as a way
of protecting New Zealand's lucrative manuka honey exports.
That included a partnership with the UK Government's
biological and chemical analysis laboratory - the Food and
Environment Research Agency (Fera) - to establish a
verification programme in the UK.
The programme was aimed at protecting consumers and retailers
against buying and stocking fraudulent and adulterated manuka
"As a result, consumers and local health food stores in the
UK have been given the opportunity to submit honey to Fera
for testing. This is a comprehensive campaign that aims to
stamp out and crack down on products that aren't true to
The association had also established a testing regime in
China which ensured all honey claiming to have non-peroxide
activity was subjected to testing before it was released for