An Auckland honey producer is being prosecuted over allegedly adding synthetic chemicals to its mānuka products in the first case of its kind.

Evergreen Life Ltd was forced to recall 18 mānuka honey products in 2016, following suggestions it had used artificial methylglyoxal (MGO) and dihydroxyacetone (DHA) during the processing of the honey.

Now the company and its manager are being prosecuted by the Ministry for Primary Industries on 71 charges over allegedly adding synthetic versions of the chemicals.

The most serious of the charges carries maximum penalties of five years' imprisonment or $500,000 fine in the case of a body corporate.

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The chemical DHA is contained naturally in the flowers of the native mānuka plant, which converts in the honey to MGO, giving the honey its highly-prized anti-bacterial properties.

The native manuka plant acts as the substrate for the unique and valuable honey, which contains high levels of a compound called methylglyoxal. Photo / File
The native manuka plant acts as the substrate for the unique and valuable honey, which contains high levels of a compound called methylglyoxal. Photo / File

The chemical's levels are used by producers to grade the honey, along with the unique mānuka factor, or UMF.

Consequently the more DHA, the more MGO, meaning weaker mānuka honey can be sold at a higher price.

The case has been remanded to February 14 at the North Shore District Court.

MPI declined to comment on the case as it was before the courts.

Evergreen Life Ltd did not respond to calls to its Auckland office.

In December 2017 the Ministry for Primary Industries finalised a scientific definition to authenticate whether or not a particular honey was New Zealand mānuka honey.

The rules were intended to give overseas regulators and consumers confidence they were getting genuine mānuka honey.

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