Mānuka honey

Mānuka honey is a premium product that's growing steadily as a high-value export for New Zealand. Find out some of the ways we're working with industry to ensure the integrity of mānuka honey sold as a food.


What is mānuka honey?

New Zealand mānuka honey is produced by bees collecting nectar from the mānuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium).

Mānuka plants can be found growing throughout New Zealand.

Making sure it's authentic NZ mānuka honey

Our reputation for honey production and export rests on the integrity of our products and the credibility of our systems.

In December 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) finalised a robust and sophisticated scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether or not a particular honey is New Zealand mānuka honey. 

We've also introduced requirements to:

  • improve how bee products are traced through the supply chain
  • make sure New Zealand bee products comply with importing country requirements.

Why the rules are needed

The science definition for mānuka honey is essential to maintain New Zealand's premium position in overseas markets. It will also help the continued growth of our export honey industry. It's important:

  • that overseas regulators have confidence in the assurances we give them about New Zealand mānuka honey
  • consumers in export countries are confident they're getting genuine mānuka honey.

If not, our access to markets could be put at risk or we may lose the premium prices our bee products command overseas.

Tests to authenticate mānuka honey

All honey labelled as mānuka for export must be tested by an MPI-recognised laboratory to make sure it meets the new mānuka honey definition.

The mānuka honey definition is made up of a combination of 5 attributes (4 chemicals from nectar and 1 DNA marker from mānuka pollen). This allows industry to:

  • separate mānuka honey from other honey types
  • identify it as either monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

View our mānuka honey definition infographic [PDF, 3.3 MB]

In response to industry's feedback we've increased the required level of one of the chemicals (2’- methoxyacetophenone) that has only been found in mānuka plants to date. This makes it harder for anyone to attempt blending different types of honey with mānuka honey to meet the definition.

Find a laboratory recognised to test honey

Only certain MPI-recognised laboratories are allowed to test mānuka honey and not all laboratories can do both types of test.

To search, enter the following into the 'Activities' box:

  • '10.04' for the DNA test
  • '10.05' for the chemistry tests.

Interpret your lab results

When honey is tested to the mānuka honey definition, the laboratory will provide the results of the test.

It is up to the operator to interpret these results to determine if the specified levels of the chemicals and DNA are present to allow them to label the honey as monofloral or multifloral mānuka.

Find out more

Export requirements for mānuka honey

All honey labelled as mānuka for export must be tested by an MPI-recognised laboratory to make sure it meets the new mānuka honey definition.

If you have untested honey already in retail packs that were labelled mānuka before the new rules started, you may still export it providing it:

  • is going to a country that doesn't require official assurances
  • is exported within 6 months of the start of the new rules.

If you want to export the honey to a country that does require official assurances, then it has to be tested and relabelled where appropriate.

We'll check operators regularly to make sure they are following the rules. Beekeepers may also be checked if they are not meeting these new requirements.

Recordkeeping requirements for bee products

To improve traceability of bee products through the supply chain, we've introduced new recordkeeping requirements. If the only thing you do is beekeeping, you must:

  • be listed with MPI
  • keep information about your apiary sites including the:
    • location
    • number of supers (hive boxes)
    • volumes of bee products harvested
  • create an identification number for every honey box
  • provide documentation (harvest declarations) for every delivery of bee products presented for extraction.

If you are an operator (extractor, processor, or packer), you must provide documentation every time you transfer a consignment of bee products to another operator or an exporter.

How and when to comply

The General Export Requirements for Bee Products Notice provides information about how to comply with details of:

  • the new requirements (including required documentation)
  • when the requirements take effect.

Download the General Export Requirements for Bee Products Notice [PDF, 686 KB]

MPI issued the Notice in December 2017 but the new rules don't all take effect immediately. For example, beekeepers have until December 2018 to assign ID numbers to their honey boxes.

Honey sold in New Zealand

Any changes to regulatory requirements for mānuka honey sold on the domestic market will require further policy work and will be completed at a later date. Currently, honey sold domestically must comply with all existing requirements, including Fair Trading Act requirements that it must be accurately labelled.

A guide to New Zealand honey labelling [PDF, 512 KB]

MPI's work to create a science definition

MPI's definition is the result of a significant 3-year scientific programme, which developed the criteria to identify mānuka honey from New Zealand. The programme involved:

  • working with local and international experts
  • collecting and testing over 800 honey samples, representing over 20 different New Zealand honey types from 7 production years
  • collecting and testing over 700 plants from 2 flowering seasons
  • analysing the data using a range of advanced statistical models. We had our analysis independently reviewed by 3 international experts
  • identifying markers in the mānuka plant and honey that help distinguish mānuka honey from other honey types
  • using test methods that can consistently and accurately test for markers
  • determining reliable identification criteria for monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email manuka.honey@mpi.govt.nz

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