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New Zealand mānuka honey is produced by bees collecting nectar from the mānuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium). Mānuka plants can be found growing throughout New Zealand.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has developed a robust and sophisticated scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether or not a particular honey is New Zealand mānuka honey.

From 2014 to 2016, MPI ran a Mānuka Honey Science Programme to develop criteria for identifying mānuka honey from New Zealand. This work was important because questions had been raised in overseas markets about the authenticity of some honey being sold as New Zealand mānuka honey.

The programme involved:

  • contracting experts to contribute to the research and analysis

  • collecting over 800 honey samples, representing over 20 different honey types, along with honey samples from 16 different countries

  • identifying attributes found in the mānuka plant that flow through to the honey

  • developing and validating test methods to make sure we can reliably and accurately test for attributes

  • statistical analyses to determine the identification criteria for monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

Tests developed to authenticate mānuka honey

The science programme found that a combination of 5 attributes (4 chemicals, 1 DNA marker from mānuka pollen) are required to separate mānuka honey from other honey types and to identify monofloral and multifloral mānuka honey.

Test for monofloral mānuka honey

The test for monofloral mānuka honey requires all of the 5 attributes. If the honey fails to meet 1 or more of the attributes, it is not monofloral mānuka honey – but may still pass the test for multifloral mānuka honey.

Test 1: Chemical test

The following chemicals all need to be present and at these levels:

  • 3-phenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 400 mg/kg

  • 2’-methoxyacetophenone at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

  • 2-methoxybenzoic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

  • 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

Test 2: DNA test

  • DNA from mānuka pollen (DNA level required is less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3 fg/µL)

Test for multifloral mānuka honey

The test for multifloral mānuka honey requires all of the 5 attributes. If the honey fails to meet 1 or more of the attributes, it is not mānuka honey.

Test 1: Chemical test

The following chemicals all need to be present and at these levels:

  • 3-phenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 20 mg/kg but less than 400 mg/kg

  • 2’-methoxyacetophenone at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

  • 2-methoxybenzoic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

  • 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

Test 2: DNA test

  • DNA from mānuka pollen (DNA level required is less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3 fg/µL

 Next steps

MPI is implementing the definition of mānuka honey through changes to export requirements. Public consultation on the definition and the export requirements opened on 11 April 2017. So have your say.

Laboratories to test honey

There will be a lead-in time before any new export requirements come into force to ensure laboratories are ready to test honey. A number of commercial laboratories are establishing and validating the test methods to detect the 5 attributes in honey to ensure accurate and reliable test results are produced. Laboratories that have completed requirements will be recognised by MPI.

Read the MPI full science summary.

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