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Beekeepers act to prevent honey contamination

Beekeepers act to prevent honey contamination

Beekeepers around the country will be especially vigilant this summer to ensure no repeat of the food poisoning caused earlier this year by tutin-contaminated honey.

Twenty two people became ill in March after eating honey from one source that was contaminated with tutin. The tutu is a native plant on which bees feed when long hot summers make other food sources scarce.

New Zealand Food Safety Authority is introducing a new food safety standard which aims to prevent tutin contamination.

The standard, which applies to beekeepers, packers and exporters, sets a maximum level of tutin in honey sold for human consumption.

National Beekeepers Association chief executive, Dr Jim Edwards, said industry members have worked closely with the Food Safety Authority to help develop the new standard.

“The Association has also invested heavily in education and performance management systems around this issue and we’ve worked very hard to make beekeepers well aware of best practice to ensure tutin-affected honey is not collected and sold.”

Dr Edwards said beekeepers who sell product either directly to the public or to packers or exporters will all need to have a well-documented system in place to demonstrate compliance with the standard.

“All our members are aware of the new standard and all beekeepers will now receive a compliance guide with the procedures they need to follow.

“Industry’s efforts will be concentrated on preventing bees from collecting tutin and testing for its presence if there is any possibility of contamination.”

If tutu is found in an area, beekeepers must take extra measures to ensure their honey is safe.

Dr Edwards said beekeepers are well aware of the consequences of another contamination scare.

“Apart from the potential human cost there is a major financial issue at stake.

“The export value of manuka honey alone is over $64 million pa.

“Any damage to the reputation of New Zealand honey could have a devastating effect on the beekeeping industry, which, in turn, could impact on many agricultural industries which rely heavily on bees to pollinate crops.”


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