Growing Futures

Protecting New Zealand honey exports

Protecting New Zealand honey exports

Ensuring consumer health by amending safety regulations

Around 8,000 tonnes of New Zealand honey are exported each year, with a total value of $187 million. Mānuka honey in particular commands a premium in export markets, with prices of up to £80 per kilogram in UK supermarkets, almost 30 times that of British honey.

Toxic honey poisoning can be caused when bees collect honeydew from vinehoppers that have been feeding on tutu, a New Zealand native plant. Tutin contamination of honey is rare, but can cause extreme effects when eaten by humans, such as vomiting, convulsions and, in severe cases, death. As such, honey producers undergo a strict regime of tutin testing, regulated by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), to ensure consumer safety.

Research, in collaboration with MPI and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), identified certain tutin-glucose compounds found in toxic honey that were not accounted for using standard testing protocols. To ensure concentrations of all forms of potentially harmful tutin compounds are below the safety limit, in March 2015 FSANZ amended the Australia New Zealand Food Code to set a new maximum limit of tutin for honey and honey comb, with acceptable concentrations reduced from 2 mg/kg to 0.7 mg/kg.

Tutin research is funded by Plant & Food Research and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Created: September 2015

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