The Honey War Down Under

Try reading this out loud: “In converting the nectar into honey, the bees also convert the dihydroxyacetone into methylglyoxal.”

It’s from a photo caption in a September 1, 2016, Wall Street Journal article reporting on manuka honey, a very expensive New Zealand brand of honey that is thought to help in the healing of wounds, burns and ulcers, among other uses. The honey’s popularity has led New Zealand-based Unique Manuka Factor to apply for a trademark, effectively “preventing producers outside New Zealand from labeling their honey manuka,” says the Journal. The article points out that the export value of ordinary honey is about 20 U.S. cents an ounce [while] manuka honey can bring $3.40” an ounce.

The trademark application has angered honey producers in Australia where manuka trees, known there as “jellybush,” also make the sweet, costly concoction. Australia’s honeybee council plans to contest Unique Manuka Factor’s application.

The labeling war reflects the burgeoning popularity of this “superfood,” which, according to the Journal, has been acclaimed by TV personality Kourtney Kardashian and tennis star Novak Djokovic. Part of its appeal reflects the fact that it can either be eaten or, alternatively, added to products that can benefit from the antibacterial properties of methylglyoxal.

And you thought honey was one of those rare, non-controversial, much-loved, natural products that couldn’t possibly cause any dissension anywhere?


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