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 when 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.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has developed a robust and sophisticated scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether or not a particular honey is New Zealand mānuka honey. The science definition is essential to maintain New Zealand's premium position in overseas markets and for 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 are getting the real deal.

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

How the definition was developed

From 2014 to 2016, MPI ran a Mānuka Honey Science Programme to develop criteria for identifying mānuka honey from New Zealand. This work was important because questions had been raised in overseas markets about the authenticity of some honey being sold as New Zealand mānuka honey.

The programme involved:

  • contracting experts to contribute to the research and analysis
  • collecting over 800 honey samples, representing over 20 different honey types, along with honey samples from 16 different countries
  • identifying attributes found in the mānuka plant that flow through to the honey
  • developing and validating test methods to make sure we can reliably and accurately test for attributes
  • statistical analyses to determine the identification criteria for monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

MPI's 3-year Mānuka honey science programme - facts and stats [PDF, 3.3 MB]

Programme updates

Getting sample results

If you supplied honey samples to support the MPI Mānuka Honey Science Programme, MPI will be in touch with the results of how your honey sample(s) tested against the definition. If you do not receive your results by 28 April 2017, email manuka.honey@mpi.govt.nz

Tests developed to authenticate mānuka honey

The science programme found that a combination of 5 attributes (4 chemicals, 1 DNA marker from mānuka pollen) are required to separate mānuka honey from other honey types and to identify monofloral and multifloral mānuka honey.

Test for monofloral mānuka honey

The test for monofloral mānuka honey requires all of the 5 attributes. If the honey fails to meet 1 or more of the attributes, it is not monofloral mānuka honey – but may still pass the test for multifloral mānuka honey.

Test 1: Chemical test

The following chemicals all need to be present and at these levels:

  • 3-phenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 400 mg/kg
  • 2’-methoxyacetophenone at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg
  • 2-methoxybenzoic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg
  • 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

Test 2: DNA test

  • DNA from mānuka pollen (DNA level required is less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3 fg/µL)

Test for multifloral mānuka honey

The test for multifloral mānuka honey requires all of the 5 attributes. If the honey fails to meet 1 or more of the attributes, it is not mānuka honey.

Test 1: Chemical test

The following chemicals all need to be present and at these levels:

  • 3-phenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 20 mg/kg but less than 400 mg/kg
  • 2’-methoxyacetophenone at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg
  • 2-methoxybenzoic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg
  • 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1 mg/kg

Test 2: DNA test

  • DNA from mānuka pollen (DNA level required is less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3 fg/µL

Science and test documents

How to interpret your lab results

When your honey is tested to the mānuka honey definition the laboratory will provide you with the results of the chemical and DNA test.

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

Find out more about interpreting the results

Next steps

MPI is implementing the definition of mānuka honey through changes to export requirements. Public consultation on the definition and the export requirements opened on 11 April 2017.

Laboratories to test honey

There will be a lead-in time before any new export requirements come into force to ensure laboratories are ready to test honey. A number of commercial laboratories are establishing and validating the test methods to detect the 5 attributes in honey to ensure accurate and reliable test results are produced. Laboratories that have completed requirements will be recognised by MPI.

(Note, when searching use the 'Activities' box. Type in '10.04' for the DNA test or '10.05' for the chemistry tests. Not all laboratories can do both types of tests).

Honey sold in New Zealand

Any changes to regulatory requirements for 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.

History of developing a definition

Consultation on defining mānuka honey

In 2013, MPI consulted widely on options for defining monofloral mānuka honey.

We received 72 submissions in response to the consultation – from beekeepers, honey producers, exporters, scientists, and others with an interest in mānuka honey:

Mānuka honey industry meetings

Following the consultation, we met with about 80 representatives of the industry. At the meeting MPI agreed to establish industry and science working groups to further the work needed to create the interim labelling guidelines.

For more details on how this work evolved, you can read the notes from the initial meeting with industry and the subsequent working groups .

Strengthening the rules for exporting

In 2014, MPI and industry developed an interim guide to meet legislative labelling requirements for mānuka honey. Following the release of the interim guide, MPI worked closely with industry to assist with required label changes. On 1 January 2015, MPI began withholding Official Assurances for non-compliant product labels.

For further information, download the:

Before developing the interim labelling guidelines, we analysed a large amount of data to try to identify the unique and stable characteristics of mānuka honey. MPI produced a report – Science and characterising mānuka honey: Current and future science to support a definition.

In December 2015, MPI consulted on proposals to introduce some regulatory measures to further strengthen the official assurances framework for bee products that are exported to countries that require an official assurance. The consultation closed on 17 December.

Who to contact

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

'Summary of MPI's response to international peer review of methodology'

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