There's champagne from the French wine region, feta from Greece, and soon manuka honey from New Zealand.

The Government has released a scientific definition for manuka honey, in hope of safeguarding the authenticity of the products that New Zealand exports overseas.

It means overseas regulators and consumers can have confidence in that the honey they're receiving is genuine New Zealand manuka honey, as it's a premium product, exported at a premium price.

Food Safety Minister David Bennett said it was those overseas regulators and consumers who've been pushing for an independent, Government-backed definition.


"[It] will provide an important starting point for the industry to promote New Zealand manuka honey in world markets," he said.

The scientific definition has taken the Ministry for Primary Industries more than two years to develop, which the Ministry said was necessary because questions had been raised in overseas markets about the authenticity of some honey being sold as New Zealand manuka honey.

Ministry of Primary Industries experts collected over 800 honey samples from over 20 different honey types, from 16 different countries.

It studied the samples to find what the identifying attributes were from the manuka plant that ultimately made up the manuka honey product. Those experts then developed and validated test methods to make sure those attributes can be tested for, and worked out criteria for identifying monofloral and multifloral manuka honey.

The UMF Honey Association said the announcement of a scientific definition is a step in the right direction for its 100 plus members who collectively export over 80 per cent of all manuka honey products from New Zealand.

"A robust regulatory definition implemented by MPI across all of the industry will help protect an important New Zealand product which is in huge demand internationally.

"The UMFHA has undertaken its own extensive science programme over the past five years. We look forward to incorporating the perspectives and learnings of our international science team during the six weeks' review and consultation phase.

"At the end of that process, we hope to see in place a regulatory definition that provides greater support and increased confidence to our members, consumers and regulatory authorities worldwide."

MPI is implementing the definition of manuka honey through changes to export requirements. Public consultation on the definition and the export requirements opened on 11 April 2017.

The industry organisation for the honey and beekeeping industry, Apiculture New Zealand, is pleased with the definition.

"The introduction of a regulatory science definition is a major milestone in the history of the manuka honey industry," said Karin Kos, chief executive of Apiculture NZ.

"It is a relatively young industry growing very rapidly and with huge potential.

"We signalled our willingness to work with MPI to ensure its proposed science definition is robust in meeting shared objectives around consumer confidence and authenticity, and will be making a detailed submission on behalf of industry.

"Manuka honey is a very valuable market asset for producers and for New Zealand as a whole, and it needs to be carefully protected. It needs to be very clear what it is, and what it isn't."

Apiculture NZ, anticipating the release of the definition, recently established an expert review team on behalf of the industry. This group will undertake a programme of due diligence on the proposed MPI science definition.

"The group is, representative of our wider industry, made up of members from an existing focus group charged with making sure we maintain our international reputation for producing safe and compliant products" Kos said.

"The group will be supported by science advisers.

"We are only going to get one shot at this and it is important that we get it right.

"A clear, tight and widely endorsed approach to the identity of New Zealand manuka honey will also give our international partners confidence in our ability as an industry and country to protect the integrity of this product."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters however, believes the Government has been lagging on this for nearly a year now and it's having a major impact on local manuka honey growers.

"The manuka honey standard was meant to be out by mid-last year, then it was widely expected on 26 January, so it is already months late," said Mr Peters.

"While there is some progress this is also yet more consultation. Many apiarists are wary of Ministry for Primary Industries deadlines that have been repeatedly missed in the recent past.

"Earlier this year one apiarist told us that they spend $5,000 every week on wages for five staff. As every week drags by without the manuka honey standard it is forcing beekeepers into making some tough calls," Mr Peters said.