Expensive manuka honey may have been cut with inferior varieties

Everyone’s Abuzz

Manuka honey is yet another controversial natural product that proponents claim delivers health benefits to consumers. Its exotic origins no doubt lend some of its appeal: Manuka honey is derived from the nectar of the eponymous tree, native to Australia and New Zealand. It has a unique feel and taste, and is lauded for its richness and complex flavors. And the supposed health benefits have been promoted on the strength of actual scientific research, although the honey may need to be consumed in extremely large amounts for the benefits to accrue.

But still, manuka honey has earned the moniker “liquid gold:” Health-conscious consumers have run its price up to more than $120 per jar. So, when you buy it, you want to be sure you’re actually buying it. Prices like that, combined with exotic sourcing, meant that a manuka-honey-derived lawsuit was inevitable.

The Northern District of California is the venue for just such a suit: a class action initiated by three individuals from California, New York and North Carolina. Their target: grocery chain Trader Joe’s, which sells its own manuka honey product in stores and online.

The Trader Joe’s product, the plaintiffs claim, is labeled either as “100% New Zealand Manuka Honey” or simply as “New Zealand Manuka Honey” – and it lists “Manuka Honey” as the only ingredient in the product. However, the plaintiffs’ testing (by a New Zealand government lab, no less) allegedly demonstrates that product samples contain between 57.3 and 62.6 percent manuka-derived honey. Trader Joe’s is reaping extra profit, they claim, by cutting the manuka honey with other varieties.

The action, filed at the end of July 2018, hits Trader Joe’s with violations of several New York, California and North Carolina statutes of the deceptive, unfair and false advertising varieties, including California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

The Takeaway

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages, cessation of allegedly deceptive marketing and “a corrective advertising campaign.”