Manuka honey lobby devises test to prove authenticity
By Suze Metherell
Oct. 15 (BusinessDesk) - The UMF Honey Association says it has found the solution to fake manuka honey products, developing a portable device which tests for the nectar of Leptospermum Scoparium, the native manuka bush.
The manuka honey industry group, working with Analytica Laboratories and Comvita, presented the primary production select committee with a portable fluorescent test which can easily indicate whether a product is genuine manuka honey, and research defining the premium honey. Analytica executive director Terry Braggins said the development of a chemical fingerprint, based on the presence of the native bush's nectar, could distinguish monofloral honey made by bees foraging on manuka flowers from other blended or imitation honey.
The briefing comes after UMFHA last week filed for a certification trademark covering 'Manuka Honey' to protect the use of the name because imitations are damaging the brand at a time when demand in markets such as China is growing.
Asian demand for manuka honey has seen the price for all New Zealand honey increase amid a global shortage. In the year to August, New Zealand generated $249.8 million from honey exports, up 34 percent from the same period a year earlier, and more than double the value sold overseas in 2012.
Still, the demand for honey has also seen a rise in fakes, and UMFHA independent chairman Peter Luxton today told politicians more manuka honey was being exported into foreign markets than New Zealand actually produced.
A division in the industry over how best to classify manuka honey has added to consumer confusion. UMFHA licenses manuka honey producers and covers about 85 percent of the industry, including some of the larger exporters such as Comvita.
UMFHA's research and trademark push comes as the Ministry of Primary Industries cracks down on the manuka honey industry amid international criticism and heat from overseas regulators, including China and the UK, for greater scrutiny. In July 2014, MPI has introduced an interim definition and a labelling guide for manuka honey, outlining its characteristics and preventing manufacturers from making health claims.
Luxton told the select committee their research was openly available to MPI, which had declined to collaborate in the four-year project. Analytica's Braggins, who is also working on the MPI's manuka honey research, said the ministry wanted to be independent from the industry and chose not to collaborate with UMFHA.
The honey association said it has patented the technology and plans to transfer the trademark to an independent entity to manage. Manuka honey producers who weren't licenced would still be able to use the freely available trademark, provided their honey was genuine.