Warning on pollen test to tackle phoney honey
New Zealand Farmer, 4/20/2014
The Ministry of Primary Industries has been warned by a top British food scientist that it is in danger of taking a wrong step in the battle against fake manuka honey producers.
Dr Adrian Charlton from Britain's Food and Environment Research Agency food laboratory in York, where over 500 scientists work to protect the public from adulterated and mislabelled food, warned MPI not to tell the world's food watchdogs to test the authenticity of manuka honey by microscopic pollen analysis.
Charlton, speaking at an Auckland seminar attended by manuka honey producers, was commenting on a proposal by MPI that a definition of what manuka honey is be based on "pollen count", the measurement of the concentration of pollen trapped in honey.
A definition of manuka honey is being sought as part of a strategy to tackle fakery in the manuka honey business, which is blighting the industry's reputation and hindering its ability to become a half-billion-dollar-a-year export industry for New Zealand.
But Charlton said: "Pollen analysis is subjective and, in this case, is not fit for purpose."
It was less accurate than other forms of testing as human error crept in, and honey could have pollen added by unscrupulous producers in order to turn their ordinary pot of honey into fake manuka which could be sold for a much higher price.
Another issue with pollen testing was that kanuka and manuka pollen is extremely hard to tell apart, he said.
Producers also note that a pollen test would not differentiate Australian jellybush honey from manuka, opening the door to the Aussies to cash in on the manuka name.
Charlton said that MPI should focus on defining what manuka honey is and let the world's scientists and testing laboratories work out the best methods for testing…