CHOICE membership

The purity of Australian honey



There is precedent to protect naming. We have creme not sherry, sparkling chardonnay not champagne, and tawny not port, and in the USA you could once order ‘fresh Australian barramundi’ actually farmed in Massachusetts in restaurants but now seems to be called ‘Australis barramundi’ or just barramundi.

I doubt the honey industry has a comparable treaty so it relies on truth in labelling as practised in each country or trade bloc.

To stir the pot if someone exported a complete hive and could keep its DNA pure would its product still be Australian honey? Is an Aussie living in the UK still an Aussie? What if the Aussie picks up a strong cockney accent? Back to lab analysis and the courts.

We have seen and posted about labelling issues across many products where companies have used places in product names to make them seem more valuable/pure/high quality, where the place had nothing to do about the product. Some ‘wineries’ and ‘dairies’ are also reputed to be nothing more than factories in our industrial suburbs that package and label generic goods. Are they legitimately dairies and wineries or just packaging companies, so about those valuable names?


New Zealand is doing all it can to establish Manuka as a unique branding. That’s no less than many European nations have done as pointed out.

Ironically us Aussies we seam a little slow or lazi here. We are keen to ride the shirt tails of NZ given we have the exact same flowers and arguably the same product.

For the rest of the Australian honey industry, one of our prized markets China seeks high quality honey. It is ironic, even fanciful and worthy of conspiracy theories that we may also be importing from China products labelled as honey. Honey or not honey it seems totally surreal?

P.s. guess that like selling China scrap and iron ore we get steel and dishwashers back. Now we can sell China raw honey and it is also transformed prior to being sold back to us? That is enterprise we appear to lack on all fronts!


Down to experts explaining how genuine Manuka honey can fail the C4 test. I wonder if they will try to copywrite the way you say it too? Not MAHN-uka like that place in Canberra but Mah-NEWK-a.


One NZ resident we’ve met suggested - in jest of course - that not only was there plenty of Manuka honey for their toast at home, they were also able to export more than they produced.

No doubt NZ’s reliability and good will as a supplier of world class honey products would also benefit from better testing standards to prove the jest wrong. Although with “world class” now loosely defined by honey exports from China and various South American nations it is not a high standard.

Manuka - however you say it is still a lot easier than spelling “leptospermum scoparium” let alone pronouncing it correctly.


Yes, Manuka is a ‘brand’ or NZ provenance name and is not a exclusively NZ honey. Manuka is principally the honey from Leptospermum scoparium,Leptospermum scoparium also commonly occurs in Australia.


From the ABC online article linked yesterday:

"Capilano declined an interview but said it “stands by the quality and purity of all of our honey brands, including Allowrie which has never failed more stringent and appropriate testing by world renowned laboratories.”

I do recall that line being used before - “I’ve never failed a (drug) test…” by Lance Armstrong.

We are still suffering a honey shortage with our local apiarist (he has none left at all) due to the weather drought, but wont be buying any dodgy imported honey to fill the gap! In the past few weeks bottoms of jars are being scraped very clean!


I am unsure what causes the difference between an “Australian” high standard and if one that originates in another country is somehow inferior. If the bees are from an area that has little chemical contamination then the honey may be of high standards even by our exacting standards (and are ours really that high). Pure Australian or Pure NZ or indeed Pure “Anywhere” should indeed mean sourced from that place/area and not be mixed with another place’s product.

But much is expected to supply only from Australian Bees and hives, when we have 20 odd million living here and many of those enjoy honey and as it is also added to many products on the market. All I want is that the honey is indeed honey, is as clean of contaminates as it possibly can be in this day and age and has a flavour I can enjoy. I get nearly all our honey from family and friend apiarists but if they run out (which does happen) then a product that meets my needs is purchased, If it can be Australian even better but if it can’t I am realistic about that nor am I anti anyone else’s products of any variety as long as it is safe and it can’t be obtained here in reasonable quantities.


I think we will find ‘Manuka’ is not a province in NZ but a Maori name for the Leptospermum scoparium bush or plants.

As you noted Australia also produces honey from the same species, aka Australian and New Zealand tea tree.


The reference to standards not being high was specifically aimed at those standards applied at the source to the product exported from China. With a degree of scepticism over these actions creating a new low for what might be world class by example.

Arguments over testing standards aside there are clearly concerns in Australia and in Europe over the nature of traded honey product.

The performance and standards of individual Australian and NZ commercial bee keepers were not the intended subject of the comment. There are however other outstanding concerns within the local industry with packaging, marketing and distribution following on from the recent news items and ABC programming.


Rather amusing when journalists wake up to their surroundings :wink: maybe more of them should read this forum!


Agree, the ‘fake’ honey is possibly the least of consumer’s concerns.

There are a lot of others above honey and olive oil, such as the Aldi oregano, counterfeit Benfolds wine etc etc.


You are right. It seems so much like deja vu.

Earlier in this thread, Simon Mulvany made claims (subject to litigation) (The purity of Australian honey) about Capillano’s Allowrie brand.

Then @bigmitch8 mentioned (The purity of Australian honey) that Jodie Goldworthy (Director of Beechworth Honey) had made statements supporting Simon Mulvany’s fight against Capillano.

Now to this ABC article. The NMR analysis was paid for by Robert Costa. Robert Costa, and Jodie Goldworthy are two of six Directors of The Wheen Bee Foundation (The Wheen Foundation’s People). So they can not be said to be independent or disinterested parties.

Mission Statement?: The Wheen Bee Foundation supports research projects and activities aimed at keeping honey bees healthy. There is more, but it is all to do with bee health. The interest in honey is a departure from their apparent mission statement.

Then, when you read the ABC article, the numbers don’t add up:
"Using the NMR testing the results showed that 12 of the 28 samples tested were not 100 per cent pure honey.
Four of the six IGA Black and Gold private label products registered as adulterated, two of six ALDI Bramwell’s private label brands failed the NMR test and six out of eight of Capilano’s Allowrie budget branded bottles had adulterated honey when NMR screening was used.
The same 28 samples were then tested using the official Australian test, C4, and all passed".
But they only list 12 out of 20 samples as not being pure. What happened to the other 8 samples?

The absence of methodology is also an issue for me. For example;

  • Who collected the samples?
  • Were they collected from one batch in one store each, or from different locations?
  • Why those and not other brands?
  • Why were there more Allowrie brand samples than the others?
  • How and how long were the samples stored and transported to Germany?
  • Have the NMR tests been corroborated?

All in all, I think that a lot more factual information is required before we get too stirred up about this.


I was wondering re the reference to Interpol looking for any details of a current action on honey fraud.
This item is historical from 2016 and appears to relate to a shipment from Iran.
Nothing more recent per Dr Google other than the hype around the current private test and a suggestion that they will be referred to Interpol.


The ACCC became concerned because of the possibility of Australian products being contaminated by “Free Trade” countries…and that’s why Interpol is playing an important part in this.
You have Coles and Woolies brands not mentioned. Wonder why???


Capilano now want to have local NMR testing and will fund it, other players are “bemused”.


What a difference a day makes?


Hopefully this is not just an exaggeration due to poor journalism?

It would be useful to see how this substantiated. I’ve had a short look for any evidence at all that Interpol is specifically investigating the current possible fraud of suspect honey product into Australia. In particular an investigation concerning exactly the instances reported recently.

I cannot find any. It is possible that there is no specific investigation and Interpol is not involved in any investigation at this time. (Other than the AP routinely passing on information on every thing that may relate to international crime activities.) Hence the statements in many of the common press items are speculative and not fact. Is there any better information that can confirm Interpol are investigating this specifically.

Generally if you visit the Interpol web site there is clearly an ongoing international program concerning many different food products and fraudulent products. The overwhelming volumes and variety of product are all things that are not honey. The programs appear to rely on shared information between national police forces of mainly western democracies. China, South American nations and much of Africa and SE Asia does not participate. Policing actions are at a National level.

As noted the ACCC is now onto the honey case and no doubt will as needed draw on the Federal Police and Australian Customs etc.

It is good that the issue of honey quality is being looked at so intensely as Australia is a producer and exporter. As other Choice members have pointed out there are other much more significant volumes of products also subject to adulteration or misrepresentations that are not getting this level of attention? Eg cooking and food oils, alcohol, processed nut products etc etc.

p.s. If there is a China connection Interpol and China are not on the same team. At a wild guess it will be an issue for the Australian Govt and Dept of Foreign Affairs to address directly with the Chinese Govt.


I agree.

Unfortunately this seems to be trial by media with one side persuading the media with their views and the test results which they undertook of Australian honey samples.

If anyone has been involved in testing regimes and/or the court system, chain of custody of evidence is critical to ensure impartially and that the results are genuine and reprsent the reality of the situation. When one side has a particular view or opinion, then collects samples, sends these samples away for testing and then releases results that substantiate their claims/views, one must be careful accepting the finding carte blanche.

While corruption may or may not exist in the recent NMR testing, journalists if they chose to run with a story provided to them need to carry out their own investigations and also disclose any backgrounds to those which make any allegations. This is so the reader is aware that there may be bias or conflicts of interest in the information presented.


Capilano have said that if Australia has NMR testing, then the testing authority would have a representative sample of Australian honeys to compare against. As the NMR testing shows up ‘adulteration’ obviously they are suggesting those ‘adulterations’ found in Germany are actually variants of Australian honey not recognised by the database there.

Clearly, if the current C4 sugar test don’t detect ‘adulterations’ as claimed, then it’s in Australian consumers’ interests to introduce NMR testing to Australia.


Yes if they can get the reference standards and handling procedures right this seems the way to go.

I see no reason to doubt that the C4 test can be beaten. C4 plants have a detectably different isotope ratio in their carbon and hence sugars from them. This allows one to distinguish when sugars from C4 plants (cane, corn) are added but not when C3 sugars are added (beet, rice).

As an aside this brings up an oddity that I hadn’t thought about before. Although purified sugar from cane sugar and sugar beet is 99.9% sucrose in both cases, identical from a chemical point of view, you could tell them apart using the NMR test.