Managing tutin contamination in honey
Beekeepers and packers of honey for sale or export must comply with a standard under the Food Act to show that their honey does not contain toxic levels of tutin.
Causes of contamination
Tutin contamination, which causes toxicity in honey, is often found in late-season honey in some parts of New Zealand. It occurs when bees collect honeydew from passion-vine hoppers that have been feeding on tutu (Coriaria arborea), a poisonous New Zealand shrub.
Maximum allowable levels of tutin
The maximum level of tutin allowed in honey is 2 milligrams per kilogram and the maximum level of tutin in comb honey is 0.1 milligrams per kilogram.
These limits are set in Standard 1.4.1 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). Click on Food Standards Code in the left-hand menu of the home page and navigate to Chapter 1 to download the relevant PDF.
Who must comply
It is a legal requirement that all honey for sale or export must comply with the limits set out in the Code. Beekeepers and packers of honey must ensure that they take appropriate measures to meet these limits.
If you are a beekeeper who only produces honey for your own use, MPI recommends that you also follow the standard. Read Part 1 of the standard, which is linked below, to learn about the options. If you donate or barter your honey, then that is a form of trade and you must comply with the standard for tutin in honey.
Food standards for tutin
Beekeepers demonstrate that their honey is not contaminated with tutin by complying with one of two food standards. The standard you apply to your product depends on the date of production, harvest or packaging. You must hold records which demonstrate that honey you have produced or processed does not exceed acceptable levels of tutin.
All tutin testing results must be provided to MPI. This can be done using the Tutin Results Recording Form.
Choose one of the standards below:
- From 1 January 2011, all honey for sale or export for human consumption must comply with the Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2010. A guide to compliance, provided by MPI, explains what you must do and includes information on how testing is done.
Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2010 (61 KB PDF)
Compliance Guide to the Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2010 (199 KB PDF)
Also refer to the 2011 standard, which amends the 2010 standard to clarify one of the options for managing tutin contamination.
Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2011 (22 KB PDF)
- Honey produced, harvested or packed between 25 January 2009 and 1 January 2011 must comply with the 2008 standard.
Further information is available in the guide to compliance, provided by MPI.
Food (Tutin in Honey) Standard 2008 (98 KB PDF)
2008 Tutin Standard Compliance Guide (178 KB PDF)
Bee pest and diseases
Two pests and diseases which affect bees are varroa mite and American foulbrood.
You can find information about the surveillance and control of varroa mite on MPI's biosecurity website.
American Foulbrood (AFB)
The National Beekeepers Association (NBA) administers the strategy that aims to eliminate AFB in New Zealand beehives. You can find out more about this on the NBA's website for AFB.
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