Twenty months imprisonment for breach of Biosecurity Act

26 April 1999

A sentence of 20 months imprisonment was handed down to a Christchurch man for illegally importing bulk bee pollen from the United States under false labels in the Christchurch District Court today.

Warren James Stewart, managing director of health product company, Megavitamin Laboratories Limited received the maximum penalty under the Biosecurity Act of 20 months in prison.

His son, Evan Kerry Stewart, Megavitamin Laboratories Limited company director and operations manager received a lesser sentence of 15 months in prison.

Both pleaded guilty to the charges and received reduced sentences. Each was ordered to pay $2500 in court costs.

The importation of bee pollen into New Zealand is strictly controlled to stop prevent the introduction of exotic disease which could potential devastate the local beekeeeping industry.

The Judge said in his summation that the New Zealand economy depended on the observance of the Biosecurity Act, and New Zealand could not afford a lapse in the rules. He said the only deterrent was imprisonment.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry intercepted bee pollen, falsely labelled as cornflour, at the defendant's premises after a search warrant was executed in June 1997.

MAF initiated the investigation as a result of a complaint by the National Beekeepers' Association concerning low grade pollen being sold on the local market which did not appear to be of New Zealand origin.

The bee pollen was falsely labelled as cornflour by the exporter at the request of the defendants to avoid regulations surrounding the importation of bee products into the country.

Under the current Import Health Standard imported bulk bee pollen cannot be sold directly to the public. The flouting of these regulations poses a serious threat to our local beekeeping industry. New Zealand is currently free of many of the major bee disease occurring in overseas countries, most notably European Foulbrood disease. Thisdisease 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, bee keepers 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.

For further information contact:
Garry Redshaw, MAF Enforcement Unit Investigator, ph: 021 976 295



Last Updated: 10 September 2010

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