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Mānuka honey definition will protect against cowboys says minister

13 December 2017

A new definition of mānuka honey has been released by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), after testing on hundreds of plants and honey samples.

Honey will be tested for five markers – four chemical and one DNA – before it can be sold overseas as mānuka.

The chemical markers are derived from nectar and the DNA marker from mānuka pollen. The combination of markers will allow industry to separate mānuka honey from other types of honey and identify honey as either monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

In response to an oral question in Parliament, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the new definition will safeguard the industry from cowboy operators and protect New Zealand’s trade reputation.

“This is an important step in safeguarding the value of our mānuka trade and our reputation for selling high-quality products that are what they say they are,’’ says Mr O'Connor.

“Our trade partners and consumers in many countries want to know they are getting the real deal and this definition will provide them that assurance. If we didn’t introduce this standard then other countries may have forced one on us.’’

He says the standard will ensure the industry grows in a sustainable way.

“MPI has very recently filed charges against a company and two persons alleging offences in relation to adulteration of honey. The definition will help stop that kind of activity, which undermines our reputation across the whole food export chain.’’

Mr O’Connor says the definition is based on robust scientific work, which was peer reviewed by international experts.

UK Trade Mark Registry acceptance

In another development, the United Kingdom Trade Mark Registry has decided to accept the term Mānuka honey as a certification mark.

The decision was in respect of an application by the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society - which represents most of the New Zealand industry - seeking a certification trade mark in respect of mānuka honey from New Zealand.

The decision means the application can now be accepted for registration and notified for any comment by other market participants.

UMF Honey Association spokesperson John Rawcliffe says the ruling clearly confirms that the term mānuka honey as a badge of origin from a single geographical source - that being New Zealand.

The UK decision will not please Australians. Australian Honey Bee Industry Association spokesperson Lindsay Bourke has described the trademark bid as "ridiculous and unfair".

Last updated on the 16th September 2019