New Tutin Honey Standard

The standard, which applies to bee-keepers, packers and exporters, sets a maximum level of tutin in honey sold for human consumption. The maximum level of tutin in extracted honey is 2 milligrams per kilogram and the maximum level of tutin in comb honey is 0.1 milligrams per kilogram. Comb honey is potentially more risky than liquid or creamed honey because any toxin present may be concentrated in small parts of the comb.

The standard provides a number of options for beekeepers, packers and exporters to demonstrate compliance with the maximum level. It recognises that testing is just one way to effectively manage the contamination problem and some of the other options make the standard more workable, especially for the smaller ‘hobbyist’ beekeeper.

Under the standard, honey harvested from the beginning of January to the end of June must either be tested or the supplier has to confirm they have:

  • a registered risk management programme, or
  • a food safety programme, or
  • located their beehives in a geographical location that has no significant tutu within a 3km radius of beehives, or
  • any beehives located in the South Island excluding Marlborough, or
  • inspected representative tutu bushes in a 3km radius of beehives, weekly from 1 January until the honey is harvested, and there is no honeydew present on the tutu. If honeydew is found to be present then the honey has to be extracted, blended and tested before sale to ensure it is safe.

The standard comes into force on 25 January 2009 and will be reviewed after the first season’s operation to ensure it is effective. The main risk period for tutin contamination is between January and May.

Full details of the standard are available on the NZFSA web site at www.foodsafety.govt.nz/industry/sectors/honey-bee/tutin/