New Zealand honey makers, stung by claims that much of their famed manuka honey exported abroad is fake or adulterated, have introduced a new device to test whether the honey is the real deal.
The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) has unveiled a portable device for indicating whether or not the product tested is genuine manuka honey.
The product, which has been developed by a team from the University of Auckland, uses fluorescent light to detect signature compounds that are only present in manuka honey.
The UMFHA presented the device to the country’s parliamentary Primary Production Select Committee, which was told that current methods of testing manuka honey are unreliable and fail to distinguish it from honeys produced from other types of pollen.
The committee heard that this was leading to a loss of credibility in international markets and calls were increasing for an effective system of testing.
It has been reported that UK imports alone of manuka honey total more than 1,800 tonnes when only 1,700 tonnes in total is produced in New Zealand. Real manuka honey is claimed to have antibacterial properties and to help burns and sores.
Leading consumer markets like the UK and China have called for a testing system to ensure that what is sold as manuka is authentic. Manuka honey is often diluted with other, cheaper floral honeys.
“Once in production the units can be deployed throughout the supply chain. Their portability and ease of use will ensure they will be used widely to help safeguard consumers worldwide and provide a solid foundation for the continued protection of our industry,” said the UMFHA.
The UK market is particularly vulnerable to the entry of fake or adulterated products as current UK guidelines don’t state what level of active ingredients need to be present to distinguish manuka honey, meaning brands with little or no such content can sell their product under the manuka name.
Light-based devices are already being used commercially around the world to confirm the purity and quality of foods including milk and cheese.