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Oritain offers protection to NZ honey industry

MEDIA RELEASE


Oritain offers protection to NZ honey industry

27-May 2009

Honey from New Zealand has always extracted a premium. And, more and more overseas producers are finding ways to make customers believe that their product is NZ honey, or at least as good. In Cornwall, a British beekeeper has recently imported NZ plants to produce a ``locally grown’’ version. And, there is evidence of NZ honey being relabelled by a US company and sold as NZ Manuka honey for nearly six times what the NZ branded product gets on the same supermarket shelf.

When others are capitalising on New Zealand’s reputation, what protection is there for genuine NZ honey producers? The answer lies with the bees.

Their honey provides deep insights into their flight patterns and provides a unique geochemical fingerprint of the area where it was produced. Genuine NZ honey is chemically different to honey produced anywhere else. This is increasingly important for honeys from more generic flowers (e.g. clover or thyme) where NZ doesn’t have the monopoly on the pollen. The fingerprint of honey not only proves its origin; it can determine the proportions of a mixture from two distinct sources, as long as reference data are available.

To protect New Zealand honey, Oritain is developing the Honey Map of New Zealand. This map will provide critical reference data so that any honey sample anywhere in the world can be compared to ``what it should look like if it truly came from New Zealand’’, said Mike Darling, Oritain’s Manager of NZ Operations. According to Mr Darling ``Oritain has undertaken a program to test thousands of samples from across NZ and to purchase and sample NZ-branded honey in the US and other markets. This is a critical `insurance’ for New Zealand beekeepers as it can protect them from the catastrophic effects of fraudulent representation that have been experienced by Australian honey producers.’’ In Australia, honey from China that was contaminated with an antibiotic was represented as being Australian and distributed in the US. ``Since that discovery, the Australian honey industry has never recovered’’, Mr. Darling said.

For many NZ producers having access to the honey map is not enough protection. Waitaki apiarists Kate White and Peter Irving have had their genuine product proactively certified by Oritain. ``It’s a bit like insuring a valuable piece of art against theft. It’s useless to wait until the theft has already happened. You need a photograph and an appraisal for your insurance to be worth anything,’’ said Kate White. ``We’ve taken a proactive approach and have had Oritain sample and certified our product which is now being distributed in Europe and Asia. Our customers want to know where their honey comes from. Having an independent, science-based certification of origin is imperative.’’

ends

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