Managing tutin contamination in honey

Tutin is a toxin sometimes found in honey. If you're a beekeeper or if you pack honey for sale or export, find out what you must do to show that your honey does not exceed maximum levels of tutin.

How tutin gets into honey

Tutin is a plant toxin found in tutu (Coriaria arborea) plants. It is poisonous to people and other mammals. Symptoms of tutin ingestion in people can be mild (giddiness). But they can also be severe and lead to coma or death.

Passion vine hopper insects feed on tutu plants and produce honeydew which contains tutin. When bees collect this honeydew, the honey they make can contain tutin. The main risk period is from January to April, and affects honey in most of the North Island and the top third of the South Island.

Maximum allowable levels of tutin

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code sets the maximum level for tutin in both honey and honeycomb. The maximum level of tutin allowed is 0.7 mg/kg.

Maximum levels of contaminants and natural toxicants – Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

Who must comply

All honey for sale or export must comply with the limits set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Appropriate measures to meet these limits must be taken by:

  • beekeepers
  • packers of honey
  • hobbyist beekeepers who donate or barter honey.

Food standards for tutin

Beekeepers need to keep a record to show how their honey complies with the tutin in honey food standard.

They must also provide this information to anyone extracting and packing their honey. There are 5 options for showing how tutin is managed:

  • laboratory testing
  • placing honey supers onto hives after 1 July and harvesting honey from those supers by 31 December the same year
  • situating hives where the foraging radius does not have a significant quantity of tutu
  • situating hives in the bottom two-thirds of the South Island (below 42 degrees south)
  • demonstrating low risk in areas by targeted testing of honey over several years.

Find out more

Food standard: Tutin in honey [PDF, 115 KB] 

Compliance guide to the food standard: Tutin in honey (guidance document) [PDF, 573 KB] 

Hobbyist beekeepers

If you are a beekeeper who produces honey only for your own use, the Ministry for Primary Industries recommends that you also follow the tutin in honey food standard.

Note that donating or bartering honey is a form of trade. If you do either, you must comply with this standard.

Find out about becoming a beekeeper

Who to contact

If you have questions about tutin contamination in honey, email info@mpi.govt.nz

 

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