Issues with the Manuka Honey Industry—Why Local Honey is Best(Part 1)

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By: Greg Brian

Some of you may have heard about Manuka honey, one of the most popular forms of raw honey available in the world. Perhaps you’ve bought Manuka honey in the past and used it in a variety of foods and drinks for its incredible sweet taste.

Unfortunately, the Manuka honey industry has had some major controversy in recent years. Let’s take a deeper look at why, mostly due to being an international product and being subject to counterfeit products.

Where Does Manuka Honey Come From?

The majority of Manuka honey is harvested in New Zealand. However, it’s also grown in Australia via the leptospermum scoparium bush. 

Many call that bush a “tea tree”, even though Manuka is often cited as liquid gold by those who harvest it. Getting it to America has been somewhat of a challenge, though, without some major questions.

Since Manuka honey comes from another part of the world, it costs a lot more to get it shipped to the United States. As a result, the prices for it are much higher here than if buying raw honey harvested in America.

And another big problem has developed as a result of Manuka’s popularity. Because it’s known for having extra powerful antibacterial and healing qualities (particularly for healing wounds), a lot of counterfeit versions have ended up on store shelves.

Scoping Out Fake Versions of Manuka Honey

Back in 2018, there was a class action lawsuit against a Trader Joe’s in California for selling Manuka honey that wasn’t the real deal. According to the lawsuit, the label promised “100% Manuka honey”, yet was really only 63% after a test. 

It wasn’t until the summer of 2021 when the lawsuit was thrown out by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They said it’s impossible to make Manuka honey from just one plant, making the labeling more true than consumers understood.

While this might sound discouraging, it shows buying raw honey from other countries often doesn’t lead to getting 100% of the promised product. 

Other issues are apparent with the Manuka honey industry. As mentioned, a lot of versions of this honey being sold are not really Manuka at all.

What’s Up with Counterfeit Versions of Manuka Honey?

Bloomberg reported on counterfeit Manuka back in 2018. They reported that the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries determined 22 million pounds of fake Manuka honey was being sold around the globe.

One good tell on fake Manuka is when it’s priced overly low in stores. This should be an immediate red flag for all valuable products coming from rare plants.

Trying to weed out the fakes from real Manuka is not an easy task since many consumers aren’t always able to discern real from faux. 

Making things more challenging is Manuka honey is not an overly abundant product. 

Is Manuka Honey in Short Supply?

All reports are that Manuka honey harvesters in New Zealand and Australia can’t keep up with the massive demand worldwide. It’s led to a shorter supply of it arriving in America due to this.

Those selling fakes or lesser versions of Manuka are filling in the gap far too much. This is a major caveat emptor warning to those of you who’ve tried to seek out pure Manuka recently.

In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll look at why buying your raw honey locally, like here at Artie’s Harvest, is a better and safer process.


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