Fake manuka honey causes buzz in UK

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Manuka honey is currently undergoing an international food fraud investigation amid allegations that many products sold may be fake.

A nationwide alert has been issued by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to all trading standard departments, encouraging them to look out for the inferior products which are labelled as manuka, yet derived from other sources.

Testing which was carried out by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), the scientific arm of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs , the UK Environment and Food Ministry and various studies suggest that much of the honey labelled as manuka is in fact ordinary, run of the mill honey, The Australian reports.

The majority of the world’s honey is sourced from New Zealand where the country produces 1,700 tons of the product each year which is in stark contrast to the estimated 1,800 tons sold annually in the UK, let alone 10,000 tons sold worldwide.

John Rawcliffe from New Zealand’s Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) said that the estimated amount of manuka sold worldwide does not add up to the actual amount produced.

"There is potentially huge fraud. There are higher and ever-increasing volumes of honey labelled as manuka that are not manuka. More manuka is sold in the UK alone than the total actually produced. The same applies to China, America and so on," he said.

The UMFHA commissioned a significant number of tests over 2012 and 2013 on products distributed throughout the globe. From the 73 samples tested, 41 displayed no non-peroxide activity – which is a unique and genuine attribute of manuka honey. Additional tests in Hong Kong found that 14 of out 55 manuka honeys tested were adulterated with syrup.

The UK’s Food Standards Agency said that all trading standards authorities have been directed to ensure that anyone selling manuka honey is made fully aware of the consequences of selling an inferior product.

"[The trading authorities have been] asked to make sure anyone selling manuka honey is aware that they must fully comply with the law".