Liquid Gold - The great Manuka honey swindle

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It’s amazing what people are prepared to counterfeit for profit. The news has broken that the New Zealand produced manuka honey is at the centre of an international food fraud investigation after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a nationwide alert, for dodgy jars of the stuff which retails at around £90 per kilo or £45 per jar.

Manuka honey is a monofloral honey produced from the nectar of the manuka tree which is predominantly found in New Zealan. Lavish claims have been made that it’s benefits transcend being tasty on toast and include unique anti-bacterial properties and the apparent ability to help skin heal. It’s status has thus rocketed from being a low grade, obscure honey used in cattle field to being a celebrity darling sworn to by high profile endorsers like tennis star Novak Djokovic and Katharine Jenkins.

With prices adjusting accordingly to both its new status as wonder supplement and its sheer rarity, the fraudsters have apparently moved in on the ‘liquid gold’. Leaving aside the fact that stringent tests haven’t shown manuka honey to be much different from any other honey, it seems that the majority of products being sold as manuka are in fact nothing of the sort.

With only 1700 tonnes of manuka honey being produced each year, there is a certain degree of bafflement that 1800 tonnes are sold in the UK alone. Figures suggest that worldwide, approximately 18,000 tonnes are sold, suggesting that over 90% of all manuka honey sold is in fact a fake.

The FSA is asking all trading standard authorities to “make sure anyone selling manuka honey is aware that they must fully comply with the law.” John Rawcliffe, from the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, said: ‘There is potentially huge fraud. There are higher and ever-increasing volumes of honey being labelled as manuka that are not manuka.’

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