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21 July 1997
The Ministry of Agriculture has swooped on a Christchurch health product company which has been importing bulk bee pollen from the United States under false labels. The importation of bee products into New Zealand is strictly controlled to prevent the accidental introduction of exotic diseases which could potentially devastate the local beekeeping industry.
MAF executed a search warrant on the premises and intercepted bee pollen which was incorrectly labelled as another product. Overseas enquiries will be undertaken by MAF in relation to various consignments relevant to the enquiry. The pollen apparently originally came from China.
The investigation was initiated as a result of information provided by the National Beekeepers' Association.
The labels were allegedly changed by the exporter at the request of the New Zealand importer to avoid the regulations surrounding the importation of bee products into this country. Under these regulations trade is permitted to occur only under closely-supervised conditions, which ensure the risk of importing bee diseases is kept to a minimum.
Under current the Import Health Standard imported bulk pollen cannot be sold directly to the public. Pollen for human consumption can only be imported into New Zealand if it is to be processed into tablets or capsules under MAF supervision before sale. Other conditions, including testing for certain bacteria, may also be required.
The flouting of these regulations poses a serious risk to the New Zealand beekeeping industry. New Zealand is currently free of many of the major bee diseases which occur in other countries, most notably European foulbrood disease. This disease affects bee larvae, killing hive populations and threatening the pollination of most plants in New Zealand.
If European foulbrood became established here, through bees eating imported pollen carrying the disease, beekeepers would have to treat their bees with antibiotics, which would see New Zealand lose its international competitive advantage as a country which does not use chemicals extensively in honey production.
All imports of bulk bee pollen for human consumption were suspended when the investigation began.
The Ministry is yet to decide what charges will be laid.
For further information contact:
Dr Jim Edwards, National Manager International Animal Trade, Ministry of Agriculture
Nick Wallingford, President, National Beekeepers' Association of NZ
Please note: Both are contactable care of National Beekeepers' Association Annual Conference, Rutherford Hotel, Nelson (03) 548 2299