Debate over mānuka honey definition – In the News

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ attempt to standardise the definition of mānuka honey has not been well received by some in the honey business, who say even top of the range honey has been failing the test.

MPI released its scientific definition of mānuka honey in April and has extended the deadline for consultation in response to feedback from the industry. The definition is intended to aid in authenticating New Zealand mānuka products in order to provide market confidence and protect the integrity of exported products.

However, those in the industry say they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on testing only to find out there may be an issue with the laboratory testing methods. MPI says work is being done to fix the issue and that differences between the news tests and industry tests were expected, which is why the process was started in the first place.

Writing on The Conversation, Bond University Professor of Law William van Caenegem said the current row was the latest dispute over Geographical Indicators: markers that products have special qualities because they come from a special region, like Champagne.

He argued that Australian honey makers using the same species, where in Australia it is called a tea tree, shouldn’t be forced to call their honey anything other than mānuka.

University of Otago geneticist Professor Peter Dearden says he has developed a test that will not only show the quality of mānuka honey, but also where in New Zealand it comes from. That would allow a distinction between New Zealand mānuka and the same species growing in Australia.

Local media coverage of the honey definition includes:

NZ Farmer: Otago University geneticist creates manuka honey test to prove it’s the genuine article
NZ Farmer: Ministry for Primary Industries ‘too big’ and putting manuka honey at risk – Labour
The Conversation: The Manuka honey fight is one we have to have
Gisborne Herald: Manuka honey definition questioned
TVNZ: NZ Manuka honey producers say it’s ‘very important’ to find a successful way to identify counterfeit products
Radio NZ: Purest mānuka failing new honey standards
NZ Farmer: New tests confirm New Zealand manuka honey is for real