MPI Manuka Honey Science Definition

A flurry of emails occurred around 4pm yesterday, as New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries released their draft proposal for a science-based definition of Mānuka Honey.

Manuka Honey is a New Zealand taonga, and the MPI Manuka Honey Science programme that began back in 2014 intends to certify honey of New Zealand origin. This, used in conjunction with current grading systems, will hopefully reduce the number of incidents of adulteration and false claims that have come to light in recent years.

The definition uses five attributes (four chemicals and a DNA marker) that, when present in honey at specified levels, provide clear evidence that the honey is New Zealand mānuka honey. Dependent on the levels of the five attributes, New Zealand honey can either be classified as "Monofloral Manuka Honey" or "Multifloral Manuka Honey", and only honeys that meet these standards will be certified for export under the General Requirement for Export Notice (GREX).

So far, no changes have been made to the grading system with the release of the origin definition. Laboratory analysis of DHA and MG, and consequently rating systems such as the UMF system, are still very important for consumers purchasing Manuka Honey.

Since 2014 the industry has shown great promise as we band together to become more effectively focussed on protecting and developing this multi-million dollar industry. And while this is a huge positive step in the right direction, the ability to certify the origin of honey is but one of the matters that need to be addressed. The name "Manuka" needs to be protected, and essentially should be the same as "Champagne" in that only products produced in New Zealand should be allowed to carry the Maori name of Manuka. Another big issue is the large variety of grading and classification systems that are flooding the market. Grading is necessary to protect the integrity, purity and quality of the Manuka honey that is available to the consumer, but there are so many standards out there that the numbers can get a bit confusing and misleading for the consumer.

Don't get me wrong, we are all for protecting and solidifying our industry so that is sustainable and that will be beneficial for decades to come, but just so you are as confused as we are with all the possibilities for chemical markers and classifications and so forth, let me leave you with this little nugget to think about: 3-Phenyllactic acid (the main chemical marker proposed by MPI for classifying Manuka Honey) is also found in Kanuka honey produced in Northland.

Happy Autumn!


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Twyla MacDonald