MELBOURNE • A New Zealand company pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges of adding artificial chemicals to its premium manuka honey, media reported, in a flagship prosecution over a product that is a high-value export for the country.
New Zealand Food Safety filed the case against Auckland-based Evergreen Life, whose products were pulled from shelves in 2016 by the Ministry for Primary Industries, which said they might contain "non-approved substances".
Singapore also recalled the manuka honey products in February 2016, as Singapore's food regulations do not allow additives to be added to honey.
While there was no food safety risk, consumers were advised not to consume the affected products and to discard them.
Demand for honey has been growing globally, especially for manuka honey, which is collected from the flowers of plants native to New Zealand and Australia.
Different species of the plant grow in other parts of the world, but they do not produce the flowers needed for the honey, making manuka more expensive.
Manuka is also considered to have better anti-bacterial properties than other honey, partly because it naturally contains an omega acid called DHA and an antacid known as MGO.
Evergreen had allegedly been adding synthetic chemicals to increase the levels of the anti-bacterial agents, allowing the company to sell the honey at a higher price, according to the public-service Radio New Zealand.
Sentencing in the Evergreen case is scheduled for later this month.