Manuka honey company which added illegal chemicals 'driven by greed'

The director of a manuka honey company has been fined $112,500 for secretly adding synthetic chemicals to its product to boost the value. 

Company Evergreen Life pleaded guilty to four charges, and manager Tak Yoon Lee to three, after adding chemicals to honey to make it appear like it had stronger antibacterial properties than it really had.

Evergreen Life itself was fined $260,000.

Honey is rated by the level of methylglyoxal - the higher the level, the more it's worth. Methylglyoxal is an antacid created by an omega acid called dihydroxyacetone present in Manuka flowers, which turns into methylglyoxal.

It was the first time the Ministry of Primary Industries had laid such charges. 

The judge said Lee and Evergreen Life's offending went "to the heart of the manuka honey industry".

"Clearly there was deception here, and a breach of trust," said Judge Eddie Paul.

Eighteen Evergreen Life honey products used to be sold across New Zealand and the world, but you can't buy it anymore - it was taken off the shelves in a 2016 recall. 

Lee pleaded guilty in April. The maximum penalty he faced was five years' imprisonment and/or $100,000.



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