The New Zealand government and the honey industry were hard-pressed to act quickly as a national warning was issued in Britain amid concerns of food safety over fake honey based on a statement made by Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye.
The Food Standars Agency (FSA) in the UK issued a national warming about illegal and misleading claims indicated on the labels of manuka honey jars. Ms Kaye said it's important for New Zealand to maintain its integrity on food labels, and this is the reason that there should be proper standards in labeling.
The chairman and chief executive of Littleover Group in Derby, Tony Spacey, said that most of the "shonky" manuka honey in the UK came from New Zealand. The manuka honey is bottled in New Zealand and exported by New Zealanders. Mr Spacey said he strongly suggests that New Zealand should "stop exporting crap".
The Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise are currently working on a short-term solution, but the country must decide on a long-term plan to meet international food safety standards.
Ms Kaye said New Zealand's honey industry representatives and government officials will meet again as they seek to correct the misleading claims on manuka honey jars. She said the challenging part was getting around the technicalities.
In order to provide the correct label, the industry needs to know what the label needs to say exactly. Ms Kaye said there weren't any available scientific markers as of this moment. The centre of the whole issue was really what the labels on the honey jars claim.
New Zealand should work to address the labeling issue since there is a big opportunity in Britain for makers of honey. Ms Kaye said there is great demand for manuka honey and if the label is corrected, the honey industry in New Zealand can take advantage of the growth opportunity.
John Rawcliffe of th UMF Honey Association said that domestic and international customers who buy honey products with the UMFHA quality mark are assured of product safety. Products with this quality seal have been subjected to extensive tests before being exported to other countries.
Mr Rawcliffe said New Zealand's manuka honey was highly sought by international customers that eventually there was a supply shortage. These customers were willing to pay a premium price for honey. Mr Rawcliffe also said the association has already formed partnerships with international agencies to create better testing methods to protect New Zealand's honey exports.