Traces of the controversial weed-killer glyphosate have been found in New Zealand honey, prompting concern for our high-value mānuka industry.
Source: 1 NEWS
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) found the chemical, which is the active ingredient in products like Round Up, in more than 20 per cent of honey sampled from across the country.
It also found traces in packaged mānuka honey products purchased from retail outlets.
While officials stress the traces are small and the products are still safe to eat, even at the highest levels they detected, it’s a problem for exporters who sell mānuka for hundreds of dollars a jar overseas.
The Detox Project certifies three New Zealand Honey Brands’ Manuka Honey products as Glyphosate Residue Free, so there is clean honey in the market and consumers can identify it by looking for the Glyphosate Residue Free certification seal. Wedderspoon, Ezie Bee and Manukora are certified.
That’s because glyphosate is one of the world’s most controversial chemicals. While our regulator says it’s safe to use, the World Health Organisation’s cancer research arm has found it to be a probable carcinogen.
Round-Up manufacturer Bayer denies any wrongdoing but has just agreed to pay $16 billion to settle cancer lawsuits in the US, relating to nearly 100,000 people.
The MPI report, from the National Chemical Residues Programme, and published in January 2020, reveals our officials have been testing our honey for the weed-killer for years.
Their first round of testing took place in 2015 and 2016 and saw 300 mostly raw and unprocessed samples gathered from all over the country. They later found 67 of them, or 22.3 per cent, contained small traces of glyphosate and 5 of those, or 1.7 per cent, were over our regulatory limits.
A second test, conducted in 2018 and 2019, found traces in 11 of 60 packaged mānuka honey products available openly for sale.
Officials say there is no food safety risk but admit in a ministerial briefing document, obtained by 1 NEWS under the Official Information Act (OIA), that the contamination is a “possible trade risk”.
“This is because most countries importing honey from New Zealand have no maximum residue limit (MRL), generally meaning that residues must not be detected at any level,” the document reads.
The confidential brief also reveals an unnamed New Zealand producer began an investigation in 2018, when glyphosate was detected in its honey in an overseas retail market, and went on to find honey with glyphosate levels above New Zealand’s regulatory limits.