The U.K. Food Standards Agency has reportedly issued a nationwide warning about misleading and illegal claims for manuka honey, a product derived from the manuka tree in southeastern Australia and New Zealand and endorsed by many celebrities who claim that it contains unique anti-bacterial and medicinal properties. According to news sources, manuka honey commands prices 10 to 20 times higher than other types of honey. Tests by the U.K. Food Environment Research Agency (Fera), New Zealand’s Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) and others, however, suggest that many of the products labeled “manuka honey” contain none of its unique active properties, prompting industry leaders to demand a crackdown on a “potentially huge fraud.”
Industry data have apparently revealed that New Zealand—the main source of manuka honey—produces only 1,700 tons of the honey each year, while consumption data show that an estimated 10,000 tons is sold worldwide annually, with 1,800 tons sold in the United Kingdom alone. Based on these findings, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries has reportedly issued a statement indicating that it is actively working with industry and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to develop labeling guidance for manuka honey and “provide clarity for producers and consumers.” Noting that she took damage to the New Zealand brand “very seriously,” New Zealand Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye has also apparently recommended an “international standard” in the long term.
Meanwhile, UMFHA spokesperson John Rawcliffe has announced a partnership with overseas agencies to create a testing regime, including a collaboration with Fera to establish a verification program in the United Kingdom. See New Zealand Herald, August 25 and 26, 2013; The Australian. com, August 26, 2013.