Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Waikato University ‘Standard’ Misleading

News Release
9 October 2009

Waikato University ‘Standard’ Misleading

The Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) has slammed the release by Waikato University of a new standard for measuring non peroxide activity levels in Manuka honey as misleading. It also undermines an industry review that is currently underway.

John Rawcliffe, General Manager of AMHA said “The special antibacterial activity which has medical properties is well recognised in international research and has been firmly established in the minds of consumers since the early 1990s.”

“AMHA owns the UMF® and UNIQUE MANUKA FACTOR trademarks which are used to certify Manuka honey products. UMF® is more than a “test” of the activity of the honey. It is a comprehensive quality standard encompassing processing and quality standards required from the manufacturers and is aligned with food safety standards set by Government” said Mr Rawcliffe.

He said that the UMF® test is the only method validated and accredited by IANZ, the Independent Accreditation NZ; which is an autonomous Crown agency. Unlike UMF®, Waikato University’s so called “standard” is only a testing method and, if adopted, will give less and not more protection for consumers.

AMHA is concerned about the way in which this new brand will be monitored. Over the past year, one company has been stripped of its UMF® license. This company as part of its legal defence, tried to undermine the validity and accuracy of the UMF® test method. Such challenge to the accuracy of the UMF®test method has now been dropped, but only after the High Court was not prepared to uphold an application by the company to retain its licence based on expert evidence by Professor Molan. As the High Court recognized, AMHA “seriously challenged” Professor Molan’s evidence as lacking objectivity. Professor Molan had sought to defend the company despite test results that found 65% of the samples tested were not true to label.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Waikato University have challenged AMHA several times over control and ownership of the UMF® trademark, and failed. The University has formed an acrimonious relationship with AMHA and has further isolated itself from the manuka honey industry by publicly supporting a single brand and manufacturer of manuka honey – the very same manufacturer which was stripped of its UMF® license for failure to meet label claims and other industry standards.

Sir Wira Gardiner, recently elected Chair of AMHA said “My members and Executive are deeply concerned that this announcement is a self-serving move to pre-empt a Government-supported industry review and is more concerned with protecting its commercial interests rather than maintaining the scientific integrity expected of a university.”
“For a number of years now we have had real problems in the Manuka honey industry trying to establish a verifiable standard that will give consumers confidence in our product”said Sir Wira.
The industry review was initiated following the National Beekeepers Association AGM where members raised concerns with Hon David Carter; Hon Kate Wilkinson and their officials.
“While it has been a difficult process to work through given the competing market positions of a number of the participants there is some light at the end of the tunnel”said Sir Wira. He said that AMHA has faced significant challenges in the recent past and while it is not AMHA’s wish to engage in litigation it will not resile from protecting the integrity of its brand and product.

BACKGROUND MATERIAL TO MEDIA RELEASE

The release by Waikato University of a new standard for measuring non peroxide activity levels in Manuka honey is misleading and undermines the current industry review (refer below). The special antibacterial activity which has medical properties is well recognised in international research and has been firmly established in the minds of consumers since the early 1990s.

AMHA owns the UMF® and UNIQUE MANUKA FACTOR trade marks which are used to certify Manuka honey products. It is a comprehensive quality standard encompassing processing and quality standards required from the manufacturers and is aligned with food safety standards set by Government. The UMF test is the only method validated and accredited by the NZ Government accreditation agency IANZ. Unlike UMF®, the University’s so called “standard” is only a testing method and, if adopted, will give less and not more protection for consumers.

AMHA welcomes any new scientific developments that improve the measurement of special antibacterial activity and indeed operates a research programme aiming to strengthen the science underpinning the industry. In particular AMHA is seeking to define core industry definitions and a core testing standard against which proprietary rating schemes can be benchmarked.

AMHA believes that the announcement by Waikato University of a new “standard” is misleading and undermines the current industry review. AMHA is concerned that this announcement is a self-serving move to pre-empt an industry review supported by Government to protect its commercial interests which seems at odds with the scientific integrity of a university.

The current industry-led review was initiated following meetings earlier this year with Hon David Carter, Minister of Agriculture & Forestry and Hon Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Food Safety and their officials. It involves the majority of Manuka honey producers, AMHA, the National Beekeepers Association, Bee Products Standards Council, Honey Packers Association and Federated Farmers as well as representatives from MAF and NZFSA. Good progress has been made and a report to the various ministers is expected by the end of the year. The newly defined standards will adopt the “best of breed” that the industry has to offer and these new standards will be enforced by all of the NZ government agencies.

In November 2007 AMHA commenced the first audits ever undertaken of the Manuka honey industry reviewing the production and products of its own licence holders. AMHA made the hard and costly decision to remove the UMF® licence where any licence holder did not meet the required quality standards and showed no willingness to comply with AMHA licence obligations. AHMA has spent over half a million dollars in legal expenses alone to protect consumers. Government agencies have in the past failed to act despite being provided with specific evidence of misleading advertising citing other priorities so AMHA has been left to stand up for the basic rights of consumers to expect that product be true to label. Many small businesses have been required to fund the legal costs involved in AMHA defending its right to protect the UMF® trademark and to discipline licence holders who were selling product that was not true to label.

AMHA is concerned about the way in which this new brand will be monitored. Over the past year, one company has been stripped of its UMF® licence has, as part of their legal defence, tried to undermine the validity and accuracy of the UMF® test method. Such challenge to the accuracy of the UMF®test method has now been dropped. But only after the High Court was not prepared to uphold an application by the company to retain its licence based on expert evidence by Professor Molan. As the High Court recognized, AMHA “seriously challenged” Professor Molan’s evidence as lacking objectivity. Professor Molan had sought to defend the company despite test results that showed that 65% of its product were not to true to label.

As a result of the mounting challenges and growing cost AMHA has faced in protecting the consumer and New Zealand’s international reputation, the Association has facilitated Government intervention with the outcome being an industry review. AMHA has engaged with this review process openly but is concerned that some companies have taken advantage of this process and have continued to dump product that is not true to label into the domestic and international market place.

UMF® Testing

The presence of UMF® activity can be detected only by scientific testing. New Zealand Laboratories Services Limited in Hamilton, New Zealand, is accredited by the New Zealand government agency IANZ and is the only laboratory approved to carry out non peroxide activity testing.

The UMF® number is equivalent to the percentage of phenol solution with the same bacterial killing power e.g. UMF® 10+ Manuka honey has the same antibacterial strength as a 10% phenol solution

Since the 1982 discovery of the unique qualities of Manuka honey by Professor Molan, New Zealand honey marketers have created what is now a $100 million per annum industry through their respective marketing and product development activities. AMHA has been the central industry body facilitating and guiding this development and its members export the majority of Manuka honey from New Zealand by value.

Waikato University has unsuccessfully tried to challenge the industries UMF® trademark several times.

AMHA has 32 licence holders and is a non-profit organisation. AMHA is concerned that a number of companies have tried to capture what has been developed by the industry for the betterment of the industry. There are many other examples of this in other primary industries.

AMHA will maintain its focus on supporting the current industry review and will continue with its research programme that is essential for the industry to succeed.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 
GenPro: General Practices Begin Issuing Clause 14 Notices

GenPro has been copied into a rising number of Clause 14 notices issued since the NZNO lodged its Primary Practice Pay Equity Claim against General Practice employers in December 2023.More

SPADA: Screen Industry Unites For Streaming Platform Regulation & Intellectual Property Protections

In an unprecedented international collaboration, representatives of screen producing organisations from around the world have released a joint statement.More

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.