What makes Australian honey so special? To understand this, these researchers need samples

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Australia has no shortage of varieties of honey – from manuka to leatherwood and mallee – but researchers are on the hunt for what makes our honey, in all its flavors, unique.

A project by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will define the constituents of Australian honey for the first time, giving industry a benchmark against which to benchmark and making it harder for copycat products to pass without being detected.

DPI food chemist Jamie Ayton said that as part of the project, funded by AgriFutures, they were collecting as many honey samples as possible from eastern Australia.

Samples were tested for everything from pH levels to enzyme activity.

“Australia has some very unique floral species, including lots of eucalypts,” Mr Ayton said.

Jamie Ayton said the more samples of honey collected, the better it was to set standards for honey.(ABC Riverina: Olivia Calver)

Standards to protect beekeepers

Mr Ayton said there had been cases where Australian honey had been wrongly classified as not genuine due to its components not meeting the parameters of international standards.

“We have such a diverse source from where the bees collect nectar…that sometimes when you compare it to an international database, our oils appear to be not authentic, and that’s not the case at all,” did he declare.

The definition would also help to discourage adulteration of honey.

Honeycomb in lockers.
Australian honey is thought to have more variable components due to the wide range of floral species from which bees collect nectar. (Provided: David Mumford)

Mr Ayton said that in the past there have been charges against products like corn syrup added to honey.

“We have sophisticated methods to detect this…and by having this basic definition, we can definitely detect it,” he said.

Distinguishing the local from the imported

David Mumford from Narrandera in southern New South Wales has been a beekeeper for 46 years.

He submitted honey samples to the project and said it would give Australian beekeepers the opportunity to distinguish their product from imported honey.

“We had no baseline to determine what honey DNA was, for lack of a better term,” Mumford said.

A man working with a machine that extracts honey
David Mumford hopes the project will prove that Australian honey is superior. (Provided: David Mumford)

Mr Mumford hopes such a discovery could encourage more buyers to buy Australian honey, supporting not only beekeepers but also the horticulture sector.

“At the moment, I think our per capita consumption [of honey per year] is only 500 grams, or thereabouts.

“It would be great if we could achieve around 10 kilograms per capita, as is the case in other countries.”

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