Auckland honey exporter fined $26k for false therapeutic claims

An Auckland businessman has been fined more than $26,000 for making false therapeutic claims about honey and failing to ensure he was a registered exporter.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said 43-year-old Jonathan Paul Towers was sentenced in the Auckland District Court after earlier pleading guilty to one charge under the Food Act and one charge under the Animal Products Act.

An MPI investigation found that Towers exported honey worth approximately $30,000, while not being registered between March 2014 and November 2016.

MPI's North investigations manager, Simon Anderson, said Towers operated his business in such a manner that he avoided the normal regulatory controls relating to record-keeping and traceability, as well as failing to operate under a risk-management programme to ensure food safety.

"He also made prohibited therapeutic claims about honey, selling it as high-value manuka honey, and claiming that it had therapeutic properties," said Mr Anderson.

"Claims of this nature normally mean the honey will attract a much higher market value. However, such claims cannot be made on honey as there are no scientifically substantiated evidence to support these claims and consumers are misled by this type of labelling,"

The honey industry is an extremely significant primary industry for New Zealand given its growth in recent years from a $121 million export industry in 2012 to one that is now worth well over $300m, Mr Anderson said.

Offending of this nature created potential food safety risks, mislead consumers and could undermine the integrity of the New Zealand honey industry, he said.

- By Maja Burry

rnz.co.nz

A beehive. Source: rnz.co.nz