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Manuka honey fraud case lands company in sticky situation

01 July 2019

A former Auckland honey exporter and its operations manager have been fined $372,500 for the “deliberate adulteration” of its honey, says the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Evergreen Life Ltd pleaded guilty to 4 charges under the Animal Products Act in a landmark case at the Auckland District Court on 28 June 2019. Operations Manager Jason Lee pleaded guilty to three charges.

MPI Director of Compliance Gary Orr says this is the first case of honey adulteration ever to be detected in New Zealand.

MPI says it began investigations into the company following an anonymous tip-off in 2016 claiming chemicals were added to Evergreen’s low grade mānuka and non-mānuka honey.

The investigation revealed that synthetic chemicals, methylglyoxal (MGO) and dihydroxyacetone (DHA) were being added to the company’s honey. MGO and DHA occur naturally in genuine mānuka honey.

The ministry laid charges in 2017 and quantified the affected honey exported to be approximately 14.5 tonnes.

“A recall of all affected honey was undertaken, including honey exported to USA, China Hong Kong, Korea, Australia and Singapore," Mr Orr says.

“The adulterated honey obviously commanded a greater price in the market place. The company benefited to the tune of approximately $700,000 because of its deliberate and calculated fraud.”

33 tonnes of honey was destroyed during the ministry’s investigation and 60 tonnes which is still being held will likely be destroyed too.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019