Fear of toxic honey caused by drought

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The drought conditions much of the country is facing could lead to much higher than usual levels of tutin in honey.

Tutin contamination, which causes toxicity in honey, is often found in late-season honey harvested in the North Island and the top of the South Island.

It occurs when bees collect honeydew from passion-vine hoppers that have been feeding on tutu, a poisonous New Zealand shrub.

In April 2008, 22 people fell seriously ill after eating tutin-contaminated honeycomb.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says limits for tutin in honey are set in the Australia-New Zealand Food Standards Code and beekeepers have a number of options to ensure their honey meets them.

It says the onus is on beekeepers to ensure any honey they sell is safe.

The Ministry says if they have any doubts, the best option is always to thoroughly blend the honey and have it tested at one of the commercial laboratories that offer the service.

- Newstalk ZB

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