Just read this interesting article from the Sunday Times on the Australian website
Kourtney Kardashian swears by it, Scarlett Johansson loves its “amazing glow” and Gwyneth Paltrow used to pour it in her smoothies. There is only one snag with New Zealand-made manuka honey, the high-priced, high-profile superfood much loved by celebrities and their fans: a lot of it is as fake as spray-on tan.
Research commissioned by The Sunday Times has found that honey sold under the New Zealand manuka label at up to £45 ($73) a pot may not be manuka.
Results of the research last week persuaded Fortnum & Mason, the upmarket London grocer, to clear its shelves of its own-brand manuka honey after tests showed that it might not be genuine. Honey sold by Holland & Barrett and Amazon also failed the tests.
Commonly sold in health shops and believed by some to have a wide range of healing properties, the thick, dark-brown honey is supposed to be made from the nectar of bees that forage in manuka bushes found mainly in New Zealand.
However, any claims to being a health food are not accepted by New Zealand and British officials, and there has long been suspicion that cheaper honeys have been mislabelled as manuka to fetch higher prices, not least because an estimated 10,000 tons of supposed manuka honey is sold around the world each year.
New Zealand produces only 1700 tons of the real thing.
The new research was conducted by Fera, a privately run British science agency that has produced the world’s first test able to identify fake manuka.
“We analysed hundreds of genuine manuka and a similar number of other honeys using mass spectrometry to find compounds unique to manuka,” said Adrian Charlton of Fera.
He picked four compounds that could be used for cheap, accurate tests.
When the scientists started testing individual brands, they found that Fortnum & Mason’s honey, costing £12.95 for 280g, failed because one key indicator was too low and another too high to match the manuka profile.
Holland & Barrett’s Real Honey Company 15+ manuka, costing £25.99 for 250g, failed the manuka test on three separate counts. A cheaper product, Nelson 30+ Honey, costing £8.26 for 250g from Amazon, was also deemed a failure.
Authentic manuka honey is produced by placing beehives near flowering wild manuka bushes.
Honey farmers use helicopters to seek out bushes and drop hives beside them, with such intense competition for the best spots that some landowners have been cultivating manuka plantations.
Fortnum & Mason said its honey had been certified by an independent laboratory but added: “As a precaution in the light of this new testing procedure, we have removed all stock from our shelves until we have fully investigated.”
Holland & Barrett said it had carried out its own checks and “was confident our manuka products are genuine”.
Philip Cropp of Nelson Honey in New Zealand said his product had also been tested, adding: “I’m standing behind my honey 100 per cent.”
Paul Dansted, a director at New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, acknowledged that there had never been a legal standard or test for manuka.
“There is no robust, scientific definition of manuka honey,” he said. He refused to comment on the Fera test but said his ministry would unveil its own test soon.
John Rawcliffe, of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, which represents New Zealand’s producers and which paid Fera to develop its test, said bona-fide manuka farmers needed to protect their product. “The new test could allow sellers of fake manuka to be prosecuted. That changes the game.”
As for the hordes of celebrities who smear themselves with manuka honey to make their skin glow, or who use it for everything from acne and burns to allergies and excessive wind, it may be time to find a more reliable source.