Stinging Claims on Healing Honey
New Zealand Farmer, 12/1/2013
The $120 million manuka honey industry is bracing for a critical BBC expose of "counterfeit" products, which some producers fear could cause irreparable damage to their reputation.
The BBC was in New Zealand last week interviewing for its documentary, expected to claim some Kiwi manuka honey being sold to British consumers is little different from ordinary, and far cheaper, British table honey.
Manuka honey is a signature export, prized for its healing qualities - consumers are willing to pay a lot of money for it, up to £49.99 (NZ$100) for a 500g jar. But the BBC, which has tested it in England, will claim that some manuka honeymarketed in the UK as "active" is no more "active" than clover honey.
Honey's active rating, known as its UMF quality rating, is a measure of its stable, non-peroxide anti-bacterial properties, which makes it highly sought-after for dressing wounds and as a health food.
But not all manuka honey has that non-peroxide activity, and the BBC will claim some of it is being sold with "active" manuka honey labels reading "Active 10" or "Active 12" which look so similar to the UMF labels that consumers are unable to distinguish between the two. That, the BBC will claim, is misleading British consumers.
Some big manuka honey producers, including Comvita, Manuka Health, and the UMF Honey Association, say the BBC is right and the same is happening here, with consumers paying over the odds for mislabelled honey.
Comvita chief executive Brett Hewlett said the labels were "misleading" consumers and Kerry Paul, chief executive of Manuka Health, agreed: "The consumer can't tell the difference."
But Honey NZ says the "total activity test" is internationally accepted, and the numbers on jars refer to the results of those tests. It rejects the claims that "active" labels confuse consumers, saying they explain clearly what the activity scores mean…