Honey sales & safety standards
Like any food product, honey needs to be handled safely before it can be sold. In New Zealand, safety standards cover everything – processing, testing, packaging and labelling. If you want to sell your honey, you need to meet these standards – and prove that you’ve met them.
If you’re serious about selling your honey, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced beekeeper who’s done it before. They’ll be able to walk you through the process, put you in touch with other experts, and show you their facilities.
But before you do that, here’s our rough guide to safe processing and packaging:
Time to test
Testing honey for sugar content, water levels, and, more importantly, tutin contamination, is an essential part of processing. If you’re selling manuka honey, you’ll also need to test and provide proof that your honey meets manuka standards.
Check out our testing article here, or find a professional, certified lab to test for you.
Rules and regulations
If you want to produce honey to sell in New Zealand, you need to meet the requirements of the Food Act. This covers safe handling, storage, and packaging of all food products sold in the country.
Under the Act, you must either be registered with your local council so they can check that you meet food hygiene regulations, or register with the Ministry for Primary industries for a Food Safety Programme. Food Safety Programmes are audited by approved MPI auditors.
You also need to have a Risk Management Programme in place to show that you understand food handling risks and how to mitigate them.
Handling your honey
Although new food safety standards mean you don’t necessarily need to process your honey in a commercial kitchen, you still need to follow strict guidelines around handling and storing your product.
These requirements include using clean, undamaged equipment to process honey and store it before it’s packaged, making sure that staff wash hands, use gloves, and meet other hygiene regulations, and using only water that’s fit for human consumption during processing.
You can choose to pasteurise your honey by heating it gently, but this is not a requirement for sale. Pasteurising is designed to stabilise the honey so it stays creamy, rather than going grainy on the shelf, but some consumers prefer ‘raw’ unpasteurised honey and believe that heating destroys its health benefits.
Honey can be stored indefinitely without going off or becoming dangerous, unlike meat or dairy. Because it’s fairly low risk compared with other animal products, most of the handling requirements are focused on avoiding outside contamination, rather than minimising risk from the honey itself.
Disclaimer - Please ensure you research this subject further as Local Councils have different regulations and requirements which must also be met; in addition to meeting the regulations outlined in the Food Act.
Meeting labelling requirements is another important part of being a commercial honey producer. Food labelling rules specify that only products that meet content requirements can be labelled ‘honey’ – products that have been diluted or adulterated with other substances can’t claim that name.
You also need to provide information about levels of key nutrients in the product, and the name and address of your business in case of complaints or questions. You can choose to include the floral source of the honey as well, although this isn’t required. Many producers simply use the word ‘blend’ or ‘multifloral’ to show that the honey comes from a mix of flowers.
You can have labels printed professionally, print your own at home, or hand write on sticky labels if you’re only selling a limited amount of honey. Because honey has reasonably standard levels of nutrients, you can purchase pre-printed nutritional labels and simply stick them to your jars.
Packaging for sale
Packaging your honey appropriately makes it safer for consumers. There are a range of packaging options available, from glass and plastic jars, to larger tubs and buckets, to the classic squeezy honey bear. Whatever you choose, it’s important that your containers are sterile, food safe, and well-sealed.
It’s also a good idea to think about transport – some jars are more difficult to stack, carry, and deliver, while others are designed to pack into boxes for easy transportation.
Selling clean, safe honey
Although dealing with food safety regulations and labelling rules can seem daunting, it’s important. Improperly handled products, or honey that hasn’t been tested for contamination, can be dangerous for consumers, and damaging to the NZ honey industry. And once you’ve processed and packed your honey once or twice, it won’t seem so arduous.
Disclaimer - Please treat this article as a guide only. New Zealand's Food Safety standards have strict requirements, it is recommended that you undertake additional research into both the Food Act and your Local Councils regulations around the packaging, labelling and selling of honey prior to extracting.