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Manuka Guidelines Need to Align with International Standards

Media Release

Manuka Guidelines Need to Align Closer with International Standard for Honey for NZ to Restore Global Trust Says Country’s Oldest Brand

According to Airborne Honey, New Zealand’s oldest and most technically advanced honey brand, the Interim Labelling Guide for Manuka Honey that was released by the Ministry of Primary Industries last week needs to become closer aligned to the CODEX International Standard for Honey if the aim is to regulate the industry and restore global trust.

The Codex Commission is a group run by the United Nations FAO and represents countries with over 99 percent of the world’s population. According to CODEX, honey may be designated according to a floral or plant source if it comes wholly or mainly from that particular source and has the organoleptic, physicochemical and microscopic properties corresponding with that origin.

“This means manuka must taste like manuka, have a sugar spectrum, mineral levels and pollen content consistent with manuka and be undamaged by heat (HMF levels below 40mg/kg),” explains Peter Bray, Managing Director of Airborne Honey. “Based on longstanding research manuka should contain in excess of 70% manuka pollen to be classified as manuka honey.”

Although the MPI guidelines refer to some elements consistent with CODEX, the guideline's requirement for the presence of manuka type pollen fails to meet the CODEX requirement for "microscopic properties corresponding with that origin", the most important identification tool in the CODEX standard. The presence of Methylglyoxal (MG), a single unstable chemical marker not required by the International Standard has also been included.

“MG has been included after extensive lobbying by those that only measure this chemical,” says Peter. “Other countries already applying the CODEX to manuka honey do not use MG for good reason. It forms from another precursor substance (dihydroxyacetone) that varies widely in manuka nectar, changes at different rates over time and eventually disappears. Current research show that high levels of MG can be found in natural or man made blends containing less than 20% pure manuka honey. Additionally MG can be found in other plant species, meaning it is not unique to manuka and the precursor in manuka nectar is a readily available pharmaceutical ingredient used as the key active ingredient in sunless tanning products.”

“The Interim Labelling Guide for Manuka Honey as it currently stands will not provide consumers or overseas regulators with the assurance that a honey is "wholly or mainly" manuka - they key phrase in the Codex honey standard, the EU honey directive and the UK Honey standards,” adds Peter.

Airborne Honey will continue to adhere to the CODEX International standard for Honey and hopes that the Interim Labelling Guide for Manuka Honey will be aligned closer to the already established and globally recognised Standard.

“It was always going to be a challenge, with so many opinions and different interests involved,” Peter explains. “With exports growing from $11 million in 2000 to $170 million last year and on track to $200 million this year it is clear there are significant financial drivers to the process. We hope that as the interim guide is reviewed over the coming months, it will become more robust and increasingly reflect the proven parameters in the International Standard for Honey. If the guidelines evolve in this way, consumers will eventually enjoy the same benefits enjoyed by Airborne’s current customers – a guarantee that the contents match the label.”

“Airborne Honey has been meeting and exceeding the CODEX International Standard for over 25 years and will continue to do so,” says Peter. “Each batch of honey that arrives and leaves the Airborne premises is tested for multiple parameters in our lab to ensure it meets the CODEX requirements. With manuka, this means it contains at least 70% manuka pollen and has HMF (heat damage) levels below 40mg/kg.”

To provide even greater transparency and honey quality education, Airborne Honey is launching a new online tool called “TraceMe”. A world first, it enables users to either scan a batch specific QR code on the jar or enter the batch code online and see all the data associated with that jar of honey. This includes HMF levels, the sugar profile, pollen percentage and even a map pinpointing the location of the beehives. To use the application, go to or scan the attached code with a smartphone:

- Ends -

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