New Zealand has moved to clamp down on health claims about manuka honey amid growing concerns about the legitimacy of some claims.

The country’s Ministry for Primary Industries this week published an interim labelling guide for manuka, which calls for the removal of all therapeutic and health claims from packaging.

It comes amid concerns, revealed by The Grocer in June, over labelling standards in the manuka sector. Some 1,800 tonnes of manuka honey are sold in the UK alone each year, despite just 1,700 tonnes being produced in New Zealand [Unique Factor Manuka Honey Association].

Under the new guidelines, claims such as “non-peroxide activity,” “total activity,” “peroxide activity” and “active” should be removed from labels and advertising to ensure products were “true to label and not misleading,” said the MPI’s Scott Gallacher.

The guidelines are voluntary; the ministry will review them by next July, when additional data that will define the characteristics of manuka honey will be available.

The guidelines were “appreciated,” said Brett Hewlett, CEO of producer Comvita. “We will, however, reserve judgement on the ability of these guidelines to rein in the cowboys.” Simon Kingston, owner of the New Zealand Honey Shop, added: “There are a huge amount of jars being sold that don’t contain the content claimed on labels. The FSA should act promptly to get these problem products off their shelves.”

The FSA welcomed the guidance, saying it was “a crucial step forward in helping UK enforcement officers consider what action to take on manuka honey activity claims.”