13 Nov 2018

Vanuatu continues push for quality standard for kava

11:08 am on 13 November 2018

Pacific Island countries will increasingly promote kava as a healthy beverage like tea.

Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are working to adhere to an international food standard for their kava products.

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Photo: RNZ / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The Codex Alimentarius Quality Standard is set by the World Health Organisation and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

It sets guidelines on the safety, quality and fairness of food trade.

The Vanuatu scientist and kava expert Vincent Lebot said following the standard would protect the health reputation of kava.

He said bans on kava in Europe and Australia were due to misunderstandings on what it was and how it was used.

"But with these standards that will be published internationally, we hope that they will represent an accurate roadmap for the private sector to follow, and therefore we will have very solid grounds to build a safe industry in the South Pacific," he said.

Flavoured Kava supplements

Flavoured Kava supplements Photo: RNZI / Indira Stewart

Dr Lebot said the standard would ensure kava was recognised internationally as a healthy, traditional beverage.

"It's very similar to what we call the 'appellations of origin' that we use for example for Darjeeling tea or Blue Mountain Coffee or Scottish Whiskey, Kiwifruit from New Zealand," he explained.

"We want to protect the geographical origin and healthy quality of the kava plant that we use here on a regional basis. It's a safe product."

According to Dr Lebot, using the standard meant kava would not be confused with products such as pills and capsules using kava extracts.

He said that this confusion led to problems in the past, such as the 2003 European ban on kava products.

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