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Manuka Doctor branding not a health claim

NZN 20/04/2016 Paul McBeth

Honey New Zealand International's Manuka Doctor branding isn't making a health claim and doesn't breach food standards, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Justices Tony Randerson, Mark Cooper and Helen Winkelmann upheld the company's appeal on Wednesday, declaring the trademark used on exported honey products doesn't breach the food standards code.

Honey New Zealand was forced to stop exporting the product after the Ministry for Primary Industries pulled the company's export licence when it decided Manuka Doctor was an impermissible health claim or therapeutic claim.

The judges said the food standards code was "clearly aimed at claims of specific measurable health effects" and didn't prohibit general claims, they said in a judgment.

"We consider that consumers exercising reasonable care would have regard to the label as a whole and conclude that the use of the words 'Manuka Doctor' relates to the expertise of the producers and the assurance of the purity and quality of the honey through the UMF grading system," the judgment said.

"We consider it unlikely that substantial numbers of the consumer public would make the connection between the health benefits of honey as a wound dressing and the words 'Manuka Doctor' so as to conclude that these implied that honey would be 'good for you'."

MPI has been cracking down on the manuka honey industry amid international criticism there was more manuka honey coming out of the country than New Zealand actually produces.

With no industry consensus on what constitutes manuka honey, MPI introduced an interim labelling guideline in July 2014 to give the industry clarity and protect consumers from false claims, as well as to try to improve credibility of the manuka products.

The company's Manuka Pharm branding was an issue in the High Court hearing, but Honey New Zealand didn't pursue an appeal in relation to those words.

The judges awarded costs to Honey New Zealand.

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