19 Jul 2013

Threats to manuka honey industry

3:13 pm on 19 July 2013

A team of scientists has discovered threats to the manuka honey industry.

Genuine New Zealand manuka honey can fetch up to $250 a kilogram overseas because it contains special naturally occurring bioactive compounds.

Research that is yet to be published by a consortium of universities and Crown Research Institutes has discovered those properties can be faked by adding chemicals to normal honey, such as regular clover or low grade manuka honey.

Researchers have also discovered that storing genuine manuka honey in warm climates can make it fail tests intended to detect illegal additives.

The UMF Honey Association is seeking a unique chemical fingerprint for manuka honey so it can create a new test to spot fakes.

However, scientists say the new test is at least a year away and fake products could already be being used overseas to undercut the domestic industry.

Bay of Plenty-based honey company Comvita said manuka honey is not being faked and consumers can be confident they are buying the real thing.

Chief executive Brett Hewlett said while it is technically possible to fake this type of honey, there is no evidence this is happening and the industry's main problem is deliberate mislabelling by operators in some markets.