Consumers may soon be able to be confident that they are eating genuine manuka honey.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released a scientific definition to authenticate New Zealand mānuka honey which is the first step leading to a standard.
It follows damaging claims that consumers are being misled over what they are buying and at vastly inflated prices.
UK trade magazine The Grocer recently said unscrupulous operators were making millions from the sale of jars of fake manuka honey.
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The honey industry currently earns $242 million in exports a year, of which manuka makes up about 80 per cent. A target has been set of $1.2 billion export revenue for manuka honey alone by 2028.
The chief executive of the UMF Honey Association John Rawcliffe said it was “very positive” that at an official level a standard was being developed.
CEO of Canterbury-based Airborne Honey Peter Bray said he had his concerns but MPI had “a head of steam up and they are not changing their minds”.
MPI has spent three years arriving at the definition.
“The proposed definition and export requirements are important for the continued growth of our important export honey industry,” deputy director-general, Bryan Wilson, said.
Food Safety Minister David Bennett said the proposed scientific definition would provide an important starting point for the industry to promote New Zealand mānuka honey in world markets.
MPI said the definition used five attributes (four chemicals and a DNA marker) that, when present in honey at specified levels, provided “clear evidence” that the honey is New Zealand mānuka honey.
The honey industry is now being asked to provide feedback, with consultation on the proposals starting on Tuesday and closing on May 23. MPI said it aimed to bring the new requirements into effect in late July.