International Standard for Manuka Honey Already Exists
International Standard for Manuka Honey Already Exists Says Airborne Honey
New Zealand’s oldest honey brand urges producers to stand together and support current international honey guidelines to save industry’s reputation
According to Airborne Honey, New Zealand’s oldest honey brand, embracing the existing CODEX International Standard for Honey would be the most appropriate and immediately effective response to global criticism of Manuka honey and how it is labelled and tested. This call for the industry to stand together comes as New Zealand honey hits the headlines again. Problems have surfaced in the UK about Manuka honey not being true to variety and also in Hong Kong where it has been reported that a large amount of honey is mislabeled as well as being significantly heat damaged.
John Smart, Airborne Honey Sales and Marketing Manager, explains that recent media reports suggest that there are no current standards for honey. However, this is incorrect.
“New Zealand and over 140 countries are signatory to the CODEX Alimentarius the worldwide International Standard for Honey, administered by the Joint FAO/WHO  Food Standards Programme,” explains John. “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 it 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). Based on longstanding research Manuka should contain in excess of 70% Manuka pollen to be classified as Manuka honey. Finally, to be labelled a product of New Zealand, it should be possible for the honey to be traced back to the actual apiary.”
“From our own analysis, an average of 67% of all the honey labelled as Manuka in New Zealand does not meet the CODEX standard for Manuka honey,” adds John. “There is honey on the shelf purporting to be Manuka honey that contains as low as 8.5% Manuka pollen, (CODEX Standard 70% Manuka pollen) as well as being seriously damaged by heat containing HMF levels (HMF HydroxyMethylFurfuraldehyde) of 45.15mg/kg in New Zealand and over 80 mg/kg overseas. (CODEX Standard 40mg/kg HydroxyMethylFurfuraldehyde).The industry is embroiled in making antibacterial claims with its associated numbering system for honey that does not meet the CODEX, consequently many honey brands are using the name Manuka as a brand forgetting about honey variety and quality standards associated with the variety.”
“It is clear that the CODEX variety measurements have to be applied to a specific honey to determine if it is in fact the variety claimed to be on the label. There is a very good reason for a number of measurements to be applied because honey is complex and one property does not determine the variety alone. Adhering to such an in-depth international standard, that is embraced by producers across the world, would prevent rogue brands taking advantage of consumers and the high prices they are willing to pay for Manuka honey.”
Airborne Honey has adhered to the CODEX Alimentarius for over 30 years and has recently launched an Honest, Undamaged and Traceable label, which is designed to help consumers select honey based on variety and quality. Airborne Honey believes that in order for New Zealand to retain its reputation as a supplier of premium quality food that is true to label, the country needs to be adopting internationally verifiable quality benchmarks that give consumers absolute confidence.
“There is a very real risk that unless the CODEX Alimentarius is enforced then consumers will lose confidence that they are buying the variety of honey listed on the label and the quality of honey in the jar,” says John. “There has been a lot of talk about using other methods to identify the honey variety however it is going to be a long time before other measurements are developed and even longer before the research is peer reviewed and accepted by the international science community as well as FAO/WHO Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation who set the standards. Airborne Honey strongly urges the honey industry to adopt the current international CODEX standards for honey. Both MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) and the honey industry can enforce the CODEX if they choose. However, this has been clouded by the singular focus on antibacterial activity labelling and its associated number system while completely ignoring the requirements of quality and variety labelling.”