Authenticity aim of scientific manuka markers

BLOOMING: A manuka tree in flower. The Ministry for Primary Industries has developed a test to ensure the authenticity of manuka honey. File picture

THE recently released scientific definition that will authenticate manuka honey is good news but it is still a work in progress, says Apiculture New Zealand board member and Gisborne beekeeper Barry Foster.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) developed a scientific definition for the multi-purpose product in an effort to maintain New Zealand’s premium position in overseas markets. A chemical test for monofloral manuka honey requires four specific chemicals to be present at specific levels. A DNA test is also required.

If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it is not manuka honey.

The test for multifloral manuka honey also requires all of the five attributes. If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it is not manuka honey.

The scientific definition and new export requirements are now open to consultation. A six-week public consultation period on the scientific definition and export requirements opened on April 11.

“We have a dedicated focus group that deals with honey standards and have employed some industry science experts,” says Mr Foster.

“They will look at MPI criteria and might make a submission. We organised that some time before to swing into action when the MPI report was released.”

Although Australian companies are marketing jelly tree honey as manuka honey, MPI is also confident the markers for the chemicals 3-phenyllactic acid, 2’-methoxyacetophenone, 2-methoxybenzoic acid and 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid, as well as a specific DNA marker, will categorically mark New Zealand manuka honey as unique, says Mr Foster.

“They can counterfeit the label but they cannot counterfeit the honey.”

MPI’s definition does need to be tested, however, he says.

To ensure laboratories are ready to test honey, there will be a lead-in time before new export requirements come into force.

To ensure accurate test results are produced, a number of commercial laboratories are validating the test methods to detect the five attributes in honey.

Laboratories that have completed requirements will be recognised by MPI.

THE recently released scientific definition that will authenticate manuka honey is good news but it is still a work in progress, says Apiculture New Zealand board member and Gisborne beekeeper Barry Foster.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) developed a scientific definition for the multi-purpose product in an effort to maintain New Zealand’s premium position in overseas markets. A chemical test for monofloral manuka honey requires four specific chemicals to be present at specific levels. A DNA test is also required.

If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it is not manuka honey.

The test for multifloral manuka honey also requires all of the five attributes. If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it is not manuka honey.

The scientific definition and new export requirements are now open to consultation. A six-week public consultation period on the scientific definition and export requirements opened on April 11.

“We have a dedicated focus group that deals with honey standards and have employed some industry science experts,” says Mr Foster.

“They will look at MPI criteria and might make a submission. We organised that some time before to swing into action when the MPI report was released.”

Although Australian companies are marketing jelly tree honey as manuka honey, MPI is also confident the markers for the chemicals 3-phenyllactic acid, 2’-methoxyacetophenone, 2-methoxybenzoic acid and 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid, as well as a specific DNA marker, will categorically mark New Zealand manuka honey as unique, says Mr Foster.

“They can counterfeit the label but they cannot counterfeit the honey.”

MPI’s definition does need to be tested, however, he says.

To ensure laboratories are ready to test honey, there will be a lead-in time before new export requirements come into force.

To ensure accurate test results are produced, a number of commercial laboratories are validating the test methods to detect the five attributes in honey.

Laboratories that have completed requirements will be recognised by MPI.

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