Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dispute Over Labeling of ‘Active’ Manuka Honey Heats Up

Legal Debate Takes Over Honey Research
NZPA (New Zealand) 4/16/2008

Years of research and investment by apiarists into branding "active" manuka honey have been knee-capped by a huge row in the industry over whether to persist with the "UMF" label for the medical honeys.

The argument may pose a risk to sales of UMF (unique manuka factor) honey products locally and offshore which are worth more than $100 million.

A Te Awamutu company, Manuka Health NZ Ltd, has funded German research which showed a natural compound, methylglyoxal, is responsible for manuka honey's unique antibacterial properties.

The discovery of a compound which can be easily checked with an objective scientific test has raised questions about the necessity for continued rating of medical honeys according to their "unique manuka factor".

But apiarists and exporters have spent millions of dollars building their branding around the UMF rating system, which was created when NZ researchers were unable to pin down exactly how "active" honey was inhibiting infection and promoting wound healing. The UMF scheme compares manuka honey antibacterial properties with different concentrations of a standard laboratory disinfectant.

Today, Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) -- which watchdogs the UMF rating system and its associated brand -- publicly axed the membership of Manuka Health, claiming it packed and sold UMF honey that was not true to label.

The association's brand manager, John Rawcliffe, said the company had been asked to take product using the brand off shop shelves…

But today Manuka Health said it rejected the allegations and that it would take legal action against the AMHA's bid to terminate its membership.

"We strongly refute AMHA's claims," said Manuka Health chairman Ray Thomson. His company would seek an interim injunction…

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