The Ministry for Primary Industries wants feedback on whether the honey produced and sold in New Zealand should meet similar requirements to exported mānuka honey given some of the domestic supply ends up overseas.
Since February, all exported mānuka honey must meet a specific definition to support authenticity as the "high price that mānuka honey commands around the world has exposed the sector to scrutiny from overseas consumers, media, and regulators," MPI said in a discussion document.
"We are now considering whether to apply the same science definition to New Zealand mānuka honey sold on the domestic market," it added.
According to MPI, evidence suggests a significant amount of export honey is sold as mānuka, with prices ranging from $12 per kilogram to more than $140 per kilogram.
Alongside the global demand, there is also a premium price attached to mānuka honey sold in New Zealand, MPI said. In the year ended June 30, 2017, the price of bulk light clover honey was between $10-and-$14 per kilogram. The price for mānuka honey ranged from $10-to-$127 per kilogram.
While the science definition for mānuka honey has provided confidence in the authenticity of New Zealand product for overseas consumers and trading partners, "the same level of assurance is not available for New Zealand mānuka honey sold domestically as it is not required to be scientifically tested before being sold," MPI said.
It said not all honey currently labelled as mānuka would meet the science definition and therefore there is a risk that consumers could "purchase mislabelled honey," despite current protection for domestic consumers under New Zealand legislation.
MPI also noted it is "highly likely that mānuka honey sold on the domestic market ends up overseas, either because it is purchased by overseas visitors who take it offshore, it is purchased in New Zealand and sent through the post, or it is traded through online sales platforms."
If this honey was tested offshore and failed to meet the science definition, it could diminish trust in the regulatory system, it said.
"This could be seen as undermining the general assurance we give to our export markets and call into question the authenticity of our other exported products."
Submitters have been asked to respond to a series of questions, including whether New Zealand consumers and businesses do not currently have certainty on what regulators consider constitutes mānuka honey and whether they agree with the assumption about mānuka honey that is sold in New Zealand making its way to overseas markets.
It has proposed two ways the science definition could be applied, either a voluntary standard or a mandatory standard, and asked for opinions.
Submissions can be presented until 5pm Sept. 17 and the government will then make a summary of the information received from consultation publicly available and will use submissions to inform further analysis, MPI said.
A series of public meetings will also be held.