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Lessons of a lawsuit: Trader Joe’s “Manuka Honey”

Murky rules for labeling Manuka Honey in the U.S. confuse and deceive consumers

Trader Joe’s won dismissal of a class action lawsuit alleging that honey sold at their stores labelled Manuka Honey wasn’t pure. Exploring the facts of the case, Judge Kandis A. Westmore ruled that it wasn’t a case of adulteration but that the honey wasn’t a monofloral Manuka, which is permitted in the U.S. (1) Monofloral honeys contain primarily honey derived from a single plant species.

Adulteration of honey is common primarily among imports from some Asian countries and, in general, involves the addition of corn syrup. Trader Joe’s was never accussed of selling adulterated honey, but the claim was that less than 60% of the honey was truly Manuka.  In the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration allows the naming of honey “with the name of the plant or blossom if you or the honey producer has information to support the conclusion that the plant or blossom designated on the label is the chief floral source of the honey.” In other words, it is legal to label a honey as Manuka with as little as 51% of the honey being truly derived from Manuka flowers.

In contrast to this notoriouly lax standard, the New Zealand standards for what can be labelled Manuka Honey are very high. Labeling a honey Monofloral Manuka requires four chemical tests and one DNA test for Manuka pollen. Although these requirements have resulted in higher production costs and have affected producers of lower quality honey (2), they provide confidence in the quality of Manuka produced in New Zealand (3). Our Natural Solutions honeys are in full compliance with the New Zealand standards for monofloral Manuka Honey.

Given the regulatory gap between New Zealand and the U.S., it is possible to import New Zealand honey that is just labeled plain “honey” and sell it in the U.S. as Manuka. Legal, yes, ethical, we don’t think so.


  1. Class action lawsuit dismissed
  2. Maori beekeepers hit hard by new purity rules
  3. Ministry of Primary Industries rules for Manuka Honey testing

Manuka Honey: the MPI is watching

Natural Solutions East Cape Te Araroa production

How MPI keeps standards high and fights adulteration

If you bought Natural Solutions Certified UMF honeys from us before you saw the seal of the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which is one of the agencies that certifies our honeys. MPI is the government agency charged with overseeing, managing and regulating the farming, fishing, food, animal welfare, biosecurity, and forestry sectors of New Zealand’s primary industries. As such, it is responsible to maintaining New Zealand’s reputation for the quality and integrity  of its agricultural products.

MPI and Manuka Honey

In late 2017 MPI introduced a number of regulations designed to protect apiaries and consumers worldwide regarding the authenticity and grading of New Zealand mānuka honey. These are the steps required to certify manuka honey for export:

  • Tests to separate mānuka honey from other honey types and to identify it as either monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey. Monofloral honey is produced predominantly from the nectar of  mānuka trees. At this time there are chemical and DNA tests approved to assess monofloral identity. These markers were adopted after a 3-year international scientific program. If the honey label just reads “mānuka honey” without qualifications it has to meet the MPI monofloral standards.
  • As with any other food industry, traceability is key. Under the new rules, producers must record the location of apiary sites, the number of hives, and the volume harvested. The amount of honey produced must match the amount harvested. Furthermore, each honey box must be numbered.
  • Freight agents must receive all certifications prior to shipping mānuka honey overseas.

What MPI cannot control

Whereas the MPI has placed a tight control over the authenticity of mānuka honey, they are unable to control what happens after the honey leaves New Zealand. Adulteration and improper storage could easily negate the quality controls instituted by MPI in New Zealand. The only protection for consumers is to buy mānuka honey from a reputable company like Koru Naturals.

Sources: MPI and Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey on Good Morning America: What they got right, what they got wrong, and what they didn’t mention

GMA Investigates: MANUKA HONEY

GMA Investigates: MANUKA HONEY

Posted by Good Morning America on Monday, August 6, 2018

The expanding popularity of Manuka Honey

Yesterday’s segment on GMA will certainly serve to expand the popularity of Manuka Honey in America. As much as we welcome the enhanced exposure to this wonderful natural product, as Manuka experts that have operated in the U.S. for more than 16 years we feel we have to comment on this report.

What they got right

The most important part of the report is the emphasis on authenticity. With an estimated 50% level of adulteration worldwide, the UMF certification is the best guarantee that the honey is true Manuka. In addition to the certification, the UMF Association is an excellent source of information about Manuka Honey.

 What they got wrong

The segment leaves the impression that any Manuka with a certified level of MGO is good for you. In reality, the low MGOs honeys are unlikely to provide any meaningful benefits. For example, Manukas with 400 MGO are common at grocery stores and on line marketplaces. We think that this is just too low. Our lowest grade honey is the UMF 15+ which, for the current batch, has a 668 MGO level.

What they didn’t mention

Storage conditions are critical for the integrity of Manuka Honey. It is common for large companies to import large quantities of Manuka and store it in hot warehouses. Even worse for the integrity of the product is cycles of heating and cooling, which can occur when the honey is moved among warehouses. In contrast with these conditions, we store our honey in a special honey room with temperature and humidity control. The honey is only taken out of this room to ship to customers.

Another important factor is whether the U.S. importer has a New Zealand Export Certificate. These certificates are issued by the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries only if the shipment goes directly to the importer. Export certificates are optional for the U.S., so it’s possible to import Manuka Honey without having one. For example, some shipments go from New Zealand to certain Asian countries, where they are split and sent partially to the U.S. This increases the chances of adulteration and improper storage of the honey. We at Koru Naturals only import batches with export certificates issued to our partner, Natural Solutions, for shipping directly to us.

Manuka Honey skincare

In addition to the highly popular use as health food, Manuka Honey is an excellent skin care ingredient. As mentioned in the segment, some brands are using celebrity endorsements as part of their marketing. In our experience, celebrity endorsements don’t necessarily correlate with quality, although they do go together with high prices. Our approach is to carry only products that we know are excellent, and to offer the lowest possible prices. Our Manuka Honey Skin Care products have been carefully selected through the years to represent the highest quality and value. Our leading brands are Wild Ferns, Pure Source, Lanoliné, NZ Fusion Botanicals, and Naturals New Zealand, all top quality producers.

Become an educated buyer of Manuka products

We invite you to become an educated buyer of Manuka products. Our knowledge and experience guarantee the highest value and authenticity of both our pure Manuka Honey and Manuka skincare products.


Follow the example of the sheep

What keeps the sheep dry and warm? Lanolin!!!

Follow the example of the sheep and use lanolin to protect your skin. Lanolin is the top natural ingredient to protect your lips, hands, feet, and your entire body

Our famous pure lanolin is the best product available today. And it has only one ingredient: lanolin!

And it also comes in convenient lip balm containers.

Stay all natural and avoid these ingredients, particularly on your lips:

  • Lanolin alcohols
  • Artificial colors
  • Parabens
  • Petrolatum
  • Sulfates

You want to add more moisturizing protection? Use our products that combine lanolin with emu oil

With over 30 lanolin beauty products, Koru Naturals is the leader in lanolin skin protection


Lanolin: the perfect skin care ingredient

The sheep’s gift to humans

Why is lanolin so good for our skin? Because it works better than any other ingredient! The structure of lanolin is very similar to that of human skin lipids, making it compatible and effective as skin moisturizer.

Lanolin serves to protect the sheep from the elements, keeping their coats protected and dry in all seasons. But, the sheep’s wool grows continuously, so it can get hot and dirty if the animal is not sheared. Lanolin is extracted from this wool, making it not only natural but cruelty-free.

Dry skin is caused by a loss of water in the upper layer of the skin, known as Trans Epidermal Water Loss. Moisturizers work by forming a layer on the top of the skin that holds water in, but still allowing air to flow freely. Although there are many moisturizing substances available, lanolin is the most effective one from natural sources, working to prevent TEWL while protecting the skin.

All Lanolin products in the Koru Naturals collection are made with the best lanolin available.

View our collection of pure lanolin, lanolin creams, and lotions.

Vitamin C in skincare: how difficult can it be?

by Tamara Green

NZ Fusion Botanicals
NZ Fusion Botanicals

Pretty difficult, apparently. We had so many customers ask why the NZ Fusion Botanicals Vitamin C and Manuka Honey Brightening Serum is better than other Vitamin C serums that we decided to investigate what’s so special about it. And, after many hours spent talking with the cosmetic experts that designed the product and to chemists at some of the companies that make the ingredients, we have our answer (drum roll, please): we’re not sure.

Well, it’s pretty frustrating that after talking to so many experts we still don’t know exactly why this serum works so well. But, the reality is that although cosmetic science has advanced so much in the last few years, the performance of a particular combination of ingredients is still difficult to predict.  Even when using top ingredients and the best minds in the field, some outcomes are better than others. And in the case of this serum, the outcome has been fantastic.

Digging deeper into the ingredients, we can guess why this combination was particularly successful. The first thing we see on the ingredients list is that the focus on natural ingredients and ancient knowledge about plant extracts, which are the two primary principles of NZ Fusion Botanicals, were clearly applied to this product. There is not a single nasty chemical in this serum, and we see a number of plant ingredients that have long histories of benefiting the skin.  Even with my limited knowledge of skin care ingredients, I can see several fascinating components. I see aloe leaf juice and cucumber extract, both known for calming irritated skin and hydrating your skin. Of course, there is also Vitamin C in the form of ethyl ascorbic acid. Fruit extracts are the source of Alpha Hydroxy Acids, known to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Niacinamide, or Vitamin B3, needs no introduction after how much Dr. Oz has extolled the multiple skin benefits of this ingredient.

And then, Manuka Honey 20+, the queen of all skin care ingredients, deserves its own paragraph. We have known for a long time that you can take two skin creams with similar ingredients but one has Manuka Honey and the other one doesn’t, and the one with the Manuka Honey is far superior.  And other honeys are not the same. So maybe skin care is like nutrition where no other honey is as good as pure Manuka Honey.

As I apply this NZ Fusion Vitamin C Serum tonight, I’m thinking that creating skin care products has a lot in common with cooking: ingredients are of course critical, but temperature, size and material of the cookware, time, and other factors make a huge difference. And, as in cooking, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case in the serum. If it works great, just use it. After all, that is all that matters!

New Wild Ferns Manuka Honey Skin Care Line

honey bee on white rose
EssjayNZ / / CC BY-NC-SA

The first products of the new Wild Ferns Manuka Honey line have arrived, and they are just awesome. The line is at least 95% all natural ingredients and packed with the goodness of New Zealand Manuka Honey. Paraben Free, No Mineral Oil, Not Tested on Animals. Featuring all new formulas containing more ingredients from nature and a more natural preservative system. Also, eco-friendly packaging, down to biodegradable inks. Look for the bird symbol on the label, which means at least 90% natural ingredients.

A sad day for the Manuka Honey industry

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Professor Peter Molan, the “founding father” of the manuka honey industry. Over his long and highly productive career at the University of Waikato, Peter published more than 90 papers reporting on the research that led to establishing Manuka Honey as one of the best natural products in the world. Goodbye Peter, and thank you for your gifts to the world.

Wikipedia on Dr. Molan
New Zealand news

Now for something really spooky!

Almost Halloween and the FDA is here to spoil the fun but keep you safe!

Check the ingredients! Halloween makeup kits must be labeled as non-toxic. Eye makeup containing kohl (also called kajal, al-kahl or surma)? Not safe. It may not even be kohl, but some dark pigment not safe for eye use. Imported products are particularly dangerous, and are routinely confiscated by the FDA.

DIY Halloween makeup? Careful. Blueberries will stain your face for days or weeks. Blue face for Thanksgiving anyone? Citrus extracts will sensitize your skin to sunlight,. easily causing burns and blisters. Good to eat doesn’t necessarily mean good for your skin!

Color contact lenses? Yes, if made by a reputable company and approved by the FDA.

Check the FDA pages for the Lucky 13 tips for a safe Halloween!

Emu oil à la soybean oil? No, thank you!

38-365 Fingerprint
bcymet / Foter / CC BY-NC

We all know that a lot of emu oil out there is adulterated by cutting with cheap vegetable oils. Since the cooking oils used are bleached and deodorized, detection is very difficult. Only an analysis of the lipid composition of the oil done by a lab certified by the American Oil Chemists’ Society can tell whether the emu oil is pure. We order these tests for every batch of our oil, and we now provide a copy of the results with every order we ship. Emu Oil has an unique “lipid fingerprint” which is different from the compositions of any other oil. If someone has adulterated the oil, it’s crystal clear from the results. Read more about our tested Grade A Emu Oil!