'I hope this sends a very strong message': Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor welcomes honey company prosecution

The Agriculture Minister says the prosecution of a Mānuka honey company for adding synthetic chemicals should send a strong message to others.

The director of company Evergreen Life was fined $112,500 for secretly adding synthetic chemicals to its product to boost the value. 

Tak Yoon Lee pleaded guilty to three charges, after chemicals were added to honey to make it appear to have stronger antibacterial properties than it really did.

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 Mānuka flowers, which turns into methylglyoxal.

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

Damien O'Connor said the prosecution sends a strong signal that the Government and the New Zealand people will not tolerate this type of calculated fraud.

"We simply won't stand for any actions that put our country's reputation as a producer of premium food, or the hard work of our entire primary sector at risk," he said.

"He deliberately adulterated low grade and non-Mānuka honey and passed it off as high-value New Zealand Mānuka honey.

"I hope this sends a very strong message to anyone who thinks they can get away with this type of deception that they will be held to account."

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