19 Jul 2012

New test being developed to check for adulterated honey

7:00 am on 19 July 2012

Honey exporters are supporting the development of a new border test to check for adulterated honey.

So far this year, nine batches of honey have been turned away from overseas markets after failing the test which detects whether honey has been diluted with liquid sugar.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says the test is flawed because it can produce false positives in honey which is naturally high in protein, such as manuka.

It's commissioned GNS Science to develop a more accurate test, which it hopes will be accepted internationally.

Claridges Organic, a company based in Christchurch, has had several shipments of manuka honey stopped in the United States after failing the test.

General manager Peter Hope says that's costly and disruptive and he would be very pleased to see a new approach taken to the testing of manuka honey.

"We believe that manuka is perhaps a special case of honey so we're looking forward to some work being done on that".

Bees fed sugar

The Bee Products Standards Council says there's no evidence of New Zealand honey being deliberately adulterated with added sugar, but the presence of cane sugar in honey could come from beekeepers feeding sugar to their bees to keep them alive through autumn and winter.

National Beekeepers Association president Barry Foster says the intensification of dairying is partly to blame for destroying the natural food supply of bees.

He says a three year research programme called Trees for Bees, could fix this problem.

Mr Foster says three monitor farms around the country have been planted with a great mix of nectar and pollen sources in them and hives near them will be monitored for the next three years.