26 Aug 2013

Call for industry wide manuka honey standards

1:13 pm on 26 August 2013

The body that oversees standards for bee products will be discussing the latest manuka honey labelling furore when it meets this week.

Britain's Food Standards Agency has issued a nationwide warning about misleading and illegal claims made on the labels of jars of faked New Zealand manuka honey.

Tests have revealed many manuka honey products in Britain have none of the claimed active properties.

New Zealand Bee Products Standards Council chair Jim Edwards says part of the problem is that there is still no single recognised standard defining manuka honey and its properties, despite years of effort to develop one.

He says the industry needs to agree on the parameters that should be used for manuka honey across the whole industry.

"There are different properties that different producers are claiming so what we need to see is a uniform, agreed body of standards that can be applied," he says.

The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association operates a standard that some producers and marketers observe but Dr Edwards says other companies have developed their own tests and standards.

He says a recently formed Government inter-agency review panel should help with the process of developing a single set of standards.

Food Safety Safety Minister Nikki Kaye acknowledges the debate over manuka honey standards has been a long running one, but says she expects a labelling guideline to emerge in the next month from work the industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries have been doing.

She says the new Food Bill currently before a select committee will also contain harsher penalties for incorrect labelling.