Government has tested 800 samples from around the world to create a benchmark definition for the prized product
The New Zealand government has tested 800 samples of honey from around the world to establish a scientific definition of genuine manuka honey and crackdown on alleged fakes.
Jars purporting to be New Zealand manuka were drawn from UK shelves including at Fortnum& Mason earlier this year when it was discovered the latter are fake amid a furor for the product, which is highly valued for its medicinal properties.
The demand has pushed the cost of some containers to NZ $590( 327) but has furthermore fostered unscrupulous producers to fake the active manuka content, leptosperin, in their product.
After three years of testing honey samples, New Zealands ministry of primary industries( MPI) has released a scientific definition to be used to authenticate manuka honey destined for export in a bid to restore consumer confidence.
The new definition means that honey must have five dimensions four chemicals and one DNA marker – in order to be classified as genuine New Zealand manuka.
Questions have been raised in overseas markets about the authenticity of some honey being sold as New Zealand manuka honey, said Bryan Wilson, deputy director-general of MPI.
It is important that overseas regulators have confidence in such assurances we give them about New Zealand manuka honey, and that consumers in those countries are confident they are getting the real bargain. If not, our access to markets could be thrown at risk or we may lose the premium price which our bee products command overseas.
The authentication test is being embraced by industry officials in New Zealand, who say the honey business is long-overdue for increased regulation and government testing.
Hive steals, vandalism and poisonings have become standard fare in the New Zealand manuka industry, with the majority professional beekeepers the main victims of one or even more serious crimes.
In the six months prior to January more than 400 bee or honey steals were recorded, according to New Zealand police.
In 2010 the top price retrieved for majority manuka honey was NZ $37.50/ kg( 22/ kg ). Today it can command more than NZ $100/ kg.
The export to the UK, China and other countries is expected to reach NZ $400 m in the next few years.