The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) released an interim labelling guide today for the mānuka honey industry to clarify what claims can be made and what constitutes mānuka-type honey.
“There are a number of companies producing mānuka honey, with different statements and claims. MPI is acting to ensure that mānuka honey products are true to label and not misleading for consumers,” says Regulation and Assurance Deputy Director General Scott Gallacher.
Mr Gallacher says that it is important consumers know that what they are buying and paying a premium for is mānuka honey and the guide will assist with this.
“To produce the guide we have worked closely with industry and analysed the data honey businesses have provided. We have commissioned research and used additional national and international research and based the guide on this information.”
The interim guide clarifies what is expected on honey labels and in advertising, including clarifying issues around therapeutic and health claims. The guide also takes the first steps towards defining the characteristics of mānuka-type honey, says Mr Gallacher.
“Now we have clarified for businesses what is required, we expect products to be labelled correctly and that any therapeutic and health claims are removed from honey that is consumed.
“We are working with industry to ensure they understand the guidance we are providing today and are brought into line with our expectations. Ultimately though, if businesses do not comply we will consider enforcement action.”
Mr Gallacher says that developing a guide is challenging as there is a lack of good, robust and validated scientific data to characterise monofloral mānuka honey, which is honey gathered predominately from the nectar of mānuka flowers.
“To establish this, MPI is funding further research, with the initial results looking promising. In addition, we are also considering working with industry on joint research initiatives. When this research is validated it will be incorporated into a revised guide, which we aim to consider in late July 2015.”
Current testing does not allow for the differentiation of mānuka from kānuka properties in honey. However, part of MPI’s research is looking into new and emerging technologies that can detect the difference. Some of these methods are pollen identification, DNA profiling and chemical fingerprinting.
This guide aims to ensure that New Zealand is producing a quality product that is labelled correctly and that stands up to expectations of local and overseas markets.
If industry representatives have any questions about the Guide or how to label their products correctly, or if consumers have any concerns about mānuka honey labels or products please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The guide is the result of nearly ten months work with scientists, industry and other stakeholders.
In September 2013 MPI issued a discussion paper and called for submissions from the public and the industry, we received 72 submissions. As part of this process MPI also consulted with a range of scientists and looked at how honey is defined internationally.
MPI produced an initial draft guide and tested this with the industry in late 2013. Following on from this we held an open industry meeting in February 2014, attended by over 80 people.
A mānuka honey work group was then established, along with a supporting science group. These groups were made up of a total of 14 industry and science representatives, and based on nominations received from industry.
The work group encompassed a wide range of views from industry and independent scientists, mānuka honey producers and exporters.
The working group began meeting in March and have been involved in reviewing each draft of the guide until the interim guide was finalised. It was important that the process was transparent therefore summary notes of the meetings have been published on the MPI website.