What makes Australian honey special? To work that out these researchers need samples
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Australia is not short of honey varieties — from manuka to leatherwood and mallee — but researchers are on the hunt to find out what makes our honey, in all its flavours, unique.
A New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) project will define the components of Australian honey for the first time, giving the industry a benchmark to compare itself to and making it harder for imitation products to slip through undetected.
DPI food chemist Jamie Ayton said as part of the project, funded by AgriFutures, they were collecting as many honey samples as they could from across eastern Australia.
The samples were being tested for everything from pH levels to enzyme activity.
"Australia's got some very unique floral species, including a lot of eucalyptus," Mr Ayton said.
"The purpose of the project is to look at Australian honey and compare it to international standards and see where we're the same and where we differ."
Mr Ayton said there had been instances of Australian honey being misclassified as unauthentic due to their components not fitting the parameters of international standards.
"We have such a diverse source of where the bees collect the nectar from … that sometimes when you compare it to an international database our honey appears to be non-authentic, and that's not the case at all," he said.
"By getting this baseline data we can define what the Australian product is and protect our growers from that sort of misclassification."
The definition would also help to deter adulteration of honey.
Mr Ayton said, in the past, there had been accusations made of products like corn syrup being added to honey.
"We have sophisticated methods of detecting that … and by having this baseline definition we can certainly pick that up," he said.
David Mumford from Narrandera in southern NSW has been a beekeeper for 46 years.
He submitted samples of honey to the project and said it would give Australian beekeepers the opportunity to distinguish their product from imported honey.
"We had no baseline to go on for what was the DNA of honey, for want of a better term," Mr Mumford said.
"We know our honey's good, but it would be nice to have that unique thing to say 'this is why we're better than overseas honey'."
Mr Mumford hopes such a finding could lead to more shoppers purchasing Australian honey, supporting not only beekeepers but also the horticulture sector.
"Two-thirds of your plate of food relies on bees. Without us and without the bees pollinating you're very limited in your food source,” he said.
"At the moment I believe our consumption per head of population [of honey per year] is only 500 grams, or thereabouts.
"It would be great if we could lift to around 10 kilograms per head of population like it is in other countries."
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