Mānuka honey testing

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 honey 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.

In December 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) finalised a robust scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether a particular honey is New Zealand mānuka honey.

We've also introduced requirements to:

  • improve how bee products are traced through the supply chain
  • make sure New Zealand bee products comply with importing country requirements.

Why the rules are needed

The science definition for mānuka honey is essential to maintain New Zealand's premium position in overseas markets. It will also help 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're getting genuine mānuka honey.

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

Find out more

Beekeeper requirements – honey exports

Exporting honey and bee products

Tests to authenticate mānuka honey

All honey labelled as mānuka for export must be tested by an MPI-recognised laboratory to make sure it meets the mānuka honey definition.

This definition is made up of a combination of 5 attributes (4 chemicals from nectar and 1 DNA marker from mānuka pollen). This allows industry to:

  • separate mānuka honey from other honey types
  • identify it as either monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

Infographic: Mānuka honey science definition [PDF, 3.6 MB]

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Test for monofloral mānuka honey

The test for monofloral mānuka honey requires all of the 5 attributes in Test 1 and Test 2. If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it's not monofloral mānuka honey – but it 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 5 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 level from mānuka pollen 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 in Test 1 and Test 2. If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it's 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 level from mānuka pollen is less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3 fg/µL

Find a laboratory recognised to test honey

Only certain MPI-recognised laboratories are allowed to test mānuka honey and not all laboratories can do both types of test.

Search for recognised laboratories

To search, enter the following numbers into the 'Activities' box:

  • '10.04' for the DNA test
  • '10.05' for the chemistry tests.

Interpret your lab results

When honey is tested for the markers in the mānuka honey definition, the laboratory will provide the results of the test.

It's up to you to interpret these results to determine whether the specified levels of the chemicals and DNA are present. If they are, you can label the honey as monofloral or multifloral mānuka (whichever is indicated by the results).

Guide to labelling of New Zealand honey for export [PDF, 3.3 MB]

Mānuka honey sold in New Zealand

Currently, honey sold domestically must comply with all existing regulatory requirements. These include Fair Trading Act requirements that it must be accurately labelled. Any changes to the requirements for mānuka honey sold on the domestic market will require further policy work.

Find out more about the labelling and composition of honey and bee products

The work we did to create a science definition

MPI's definition is the result of a significant 3-year scientific programme, which developed the criteria to identify mānuka honey from New Zealand.

The programme involved:

  • working with local and international experts
  • collecting and testing over 800 honey samples, representing over 20 different New Zealand honey types from 7 production years
  • collecting and testing over 700 plants from 2 flowering seasons
  • analysing the data using a range of advanced statistical models (this was independently reviewed by 3 international experts)
  • identifying markers in the mānuka plant and honey that help distinguish mānuka honey from other honey types
  • using test methods that can consistently and accurately test for markers
  • determining reliable identification criteria for monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

During 2017, MPI sought feedback through a public consultation.

Proposed general export requirements for bee products – consultation

Find out more

Criteria for identifying mānuka honey: A summary of the mānuka honey science programme [PDF, 582 KB]

Infographic: Facts and statistics – 3 year mānuka honey science programme [PDF, 3.3 MB]

Multiplex qPCR for detection of Leptospermum scoparium DNA from pollen in honey: Molecular laboratory method [PDF, 300 KB] 

Determination of four chemical characterisation compounds in honey by Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LCMS/MS): Chemistry laboratory method [PDF, 531 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about mānuka honey testing, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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