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Mānuka honey definition will protect trade

Hon Damien O’Connor
Minister for Agriculture and Food Safety

December 12, 2017 MEDIA STATEMENT
Mānuka honey definition will protect trade

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says a definition for mānuka honey will safeguard the industry from cowboy operators and protect New Zealand’s trade reputation.

The definition, released today by the Ministry for Primary Industries, is derived from testing on hundreds of plants and honey samples.

Honey will be tested for five markers – four chemical and one DNA – before it can be sold overseas as mānuka.

“This is an important step in safeguarding the value of our mānuka trade and our reputation for selling high-quality products that are what they say they are,’’ says Mr O'Connor.

“Our trade partners and consumers in many countries want to know they are getting the real deal and this definition will provide them that assurance. If we didn’t introduce this standard then other countries may have forced one on us.’’

He says the standard will ensure the industry grows in a sustainable way.

“MPI has very recently filed charges against a company and two persons alleging offences in relation to adulteration of honey,” Mr O’Connor says. “The definition will help stop that kind of activity, which undermines our reputation across the whole food export chain.’’

Mr O’Connor says the definition is based on robust scientific work, which was peer reviewed by international experts.

“While there is debate within the honey industry about the best way to define mānuka, there is no argument that a definition is required to protect the honey’s long-term export trade.

“I ask the industry to keep working with us to protect this valuable product and ensure its future.’’


Questions and answers


1. What is the scientific definition for mānuka?

The final scientific definition for mānuka honey is made up of a combination of four chemical markers derived from nectar and one DNA marker from mānuka pollen. The combination of markers will allow industry to separate mānuka honey from other types of honey and identify honey as either monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

Industry will need to test all its manuka honey to ensure it’s authentic before exporting it.

For information on the specific markers in MPI’s definition please visit: www.mpi.govt.nz/growing-and-harvesting/honey-and-bees/manuka-honey/


2. How was the definition developed?

MPI dedicated significant resources into a three-year science programme and had extensive industry and public consultation to ensure the final definition is right.

As part of the science programme, MPI:

• funded 8 pilot projects to identify a suitable approach for the science programme;
• collected and tested nectar, leaf and pollen samples from over 700 plants;
• collected and tested over 800 honey samples from the past 7 years;
• collected and tested over 20 different honey types;
• analysed the data using a range of complex statistical models; and
• had its analysis independently reviewed by international experts.

Once MPI completed the science work, it undertook extensive industry and public consultation.


3. What happens now?

Now the final definition is reached, MPI has issued new export requirements, which take effect from February 5, 2018.

Under the new requirements, all mānuka honey for export must be tested to ensure it meets the new scientific definition and businesses will be verified (or checked) on a regular basis to ensure they are following the rules.

The new requirements will also strengthen traceability across the honey supply chain. Under the new requirements:
• Beekeepers will need to register with MPI and keep detailed records of all the honey they produce and the location of their hives.
• Beekeepers and manufactures will also need to provide proper documentation with each batch of honey for export. This includes detailed information on the honey that is being exported and where it comes from.


4. Was industry consulted?

During consultation MPI held eight public meetings throughout the country and received 120 formal submissions.

MPI spent many months engaging with industry on the alternative definition that it proposed.

MPI delayed its decision to give industry time to provide its data and science. Unfortunately, industry was not able to provide scientific evidence that was robust enough to support its definition.

Developing a regulatory definition for mānuka honey is a complex task, and one that has never been attempted by any other regulator in the world. It was important that MPI did not rush things and took the time to get it right.

MPI will keep working with the industry as the new definition is used.

More information on MPI’s scientific definition for mānuka honey can be found on MPI’s website -www.mpi.govt.nz/growing-and-harvesting/honey-and-bees/manuka-honey/


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