8 Sep 2009

Progress on manuka honey standards

1:41 pm on 8 September 2009

A group set up to resolve arguments over labelling and testing standards in the manuka honey industry plans to have a proposal ready within two or three months.

Manuka sells for a premium over other types of honey because of its unique antibacterial properties, but the industry is divided over how that antibacterial activity should be measured and described on honey products.

The steering group of honey exporters was formed after a meeting called at Parliament earlier this year to address the conflict.

The group's convenor, Wellington lawyer Stephen Franks, says it is working on an agreement for enforceable standards to cover claims and descriptions for manuka honey exports, to make sure cheats don't prosper.

The standards could be applied readily by the New Zealand Food Standards Authority, and its equivalent in other countries, and could be tested in accredited laboratories overseas if necessary.

Mr Franks says the steering group is hoping to have a proposal drafted for officials to look at in two or three months.

Meanwhile, Waikato University will launch a new consumer standard for manuka honey this month, which it says will update and improve what is currently used.

It will be based on a more accurate test developed by Professor Peter Molan of the university's honey research unit. He was responsible for first identifying the antibacterial properties in the honey and measuring the level of activity.