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News

Honey, have you got ID? 27 Oct 2015

Our ‘clean, green’ reputation means Australian honey is in great demand at home and overseas, but that success may also tempt honey exporters in other countries to make ‘Product of Australia’ claims – and at the moment we don’t have a way to check for fakes.

However, research is underway into methods to identify the pollen content of honey from different plant species and regions, to develop baseline data which could be used in future to certify honey as ‘Australian’.

The project is being carried out by Dr Kale Sniderman at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the Australian National University and industry partners Capilano Honey and Beechworth Honey, funded by the Honey Bee and Pollination Program. 

Chair of the Program’s Advisory Panel, Michael Hornitzky, said the project would provide security and value to the industry.

“Pollen analysis is done regularly overseas, but Australian data is not extensive,” Dr Hornitzky said.

“Counterfeit honey damages the industry as others profit off the Australian brand and potentially damages its reputation with an inferior product – for instance, if honey from eucalyptus grown around the world is passed off as Australian and contains contaminants.

“The experience of New Zealand, where the high prices received for Manuka honey have seen many fraudulent labelling claims, highlights the importance of being able to identify the origin of honey sold here, and in our exports.”

It’s hoped the project will create a database reflective of Australian honey, with particular focus on uncommon pollen types unique to Australian vegetation, in contrast to those found on other continents.

A secondary benefit of this research is a better understanding of the foraging habits of honey bees in natural vegetation and where they’ve been put to work pollinating crops.

The Honey Bee and Pollination Program is a jointly funded partnership with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIA) and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture. For more information, go to www.rirdc.gov.au/honeybee-pollination

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