23 Jun 2009

Attempt to settle manuka honey dispute

5:13 pm on 23 June 2009

An attempt to resolve an increasingly bitter conflict over labelling and testing standards for manuka honey starts in Wellington on Tuesday.

The ministers of agriculture and food safety will be among those attending a meeting to explore ways of ending the row over measuring the unique antibacterial properties of the honey.

The Active Manuka Honey Association, the industry body that controls the use of the unique manuka factor, or UMF trade mark on honey products, has an on-going legal battle with a Masteron based honey company, Watson & Son.

Manuka Health New Zealand has challenged the UMF system by launching its own standard.

Hunua MP, Dr Paul Hutchison, who organised the meeting, says the conflict threatens to undermine the export trade for manuka honey.

New standard being produced

In a separate exercise, the bee industry is developing its first formal standard, to define 12 different varieties of New Zealand honey, including manuka.

The Bee Products Standards Council aims to have the new standard in place this year.

Otago beekeeper Alan McCaw says the industry started the process began seven years ago, but there is mounting pressure on producers to be able to prove that what they are selling is true to label.