Beekeepers frequently raise questions about honey labelling on online beekeeping forums and Facebook pages.
The answers offered by well-meaning people are many and varied and unfortunately not always correct.
Fortunately, selling honey is NSW is covered by the same consistent rules and regulations as every other state and territory in Australia.
Selling honey at farmers markets is the same as selling honey in a retail store and good labels will make your product stand out.
Mt. Coramba Apiculture hopes that you find our top 10 sweet tips for honey labelling helpful when selling honey in Australia.
This blog was revised in February 2020 & is up to date.
The information that is required on your honey labelling in Australia and New Zealand is prescribed by the Food Standards Code.
Complying with the honey labelling requirements of the Food Standards Code will ensure that your honey can be sold legally.
Of course, the name of the food in our case is honey.
It is important to note that the Food Standards Code 2.8.2 is particular about what honey is.
Honey means the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of blossoms or from secretions of living parts of plants or excretions of plant-sucking insects on the living parts of plants, which honey bees collect, transform and combine with specific substances of their own, store and leave in the honeycomb to ripen and mature.
A food that is sold as ‘honey’ must:
(a) be honey; and
(i) no less than 60% reducing sugars; and
(ii) no more than 21% moisture.
It is perfectly OK to call your product honey if you choose to.
Alternatively, it is also acceptable to name your honey according to its floral source for example “Yellow Box Honey” or “Ironbark Honey” provided that those descriptions are accurate.
It is essential that each batch of honey produced can be identified so that the product is traceable in the event of a recall. Honey recalls are rare due to the stable nature of the food. However, the product is not exempt from the requirements.
The Food Standards Code 1.2.2 has details of lot identification.
A “Lot” is defined as a quantity of food which is prepared or packed under virtually the same conditions, usually from a particular preparation or packing unit and during a specific time ordinarily not exceeding 24 hours.
Your lot identification can take many forms however it is typically the harvest or extraction date or the packing date.
For example, if you extract honey once in 2019, then your lot identification could be “2019”. In a better year where you extract honey in January, March and April your lot identifications could be “01/19”, “Mar2019”, or “04/2019”.
The lot identification on your honey labelling can also be a best before date provided you can correlate the best before date to a specific batch of honey.
All honey labelling must include your name and address.
The Food Standards Code 1.2.2 specifies this requirement.
It is acceptable to use your name or a registered business name. The label must also have a full street address including the street number, street name, the town or suburb and the state.
You must not use a post office box number, a website address or a Facebook site as your address, however, it is acceptable to have that information or links elsewhere on the label.
The supplier of the food could be the packer, manufacturer, vendor or importer of the food.
You can also choose to include contact details such as your business phone number and email address. However, this is not mandatory.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about honey and warning statements.
These are myths that are continually repeated when the issue of honey labelling is raised.
In the case of bee pollen, its presence only needs to be declared when the pollen itself is presented as food or if pollen is an ingredient in food.
Propolis and royal jelly are treated precisely the same. Bee pollen and propolis products need to carry a statement saying that they can cause severe allergic reactions.
This information can be found in Food Standards Code Schedule 9 Mandatory Advisory Statements.
Royal Jelly needs a more authoritative statement. ‘This product contains royal jelly which has been reported to cause severe allergic reactions and in rare cases, fatalities, especially in asthma and allergy sufferers’.
The Food Standards Code 1.2.3 has details of warning statements.
FSANZ has also published a User Guide to Standard 1.2.3 Warning & Advisory Statement & Guidelines.
So to be very clear. Honey on its own does not require any warning statements.
Ingredients labelling for honey is pretty simple.
Where your product is honey only, the ingredient is honey.
Should you wish to add ingredients such as cinnamon or other flavourings (whiskey, truffle oil), then they must be declared as ingredients.
Ingredients must be listed in order of descending weight. Therefore in the above example, the ingredients would be listed as:
Date marking on honey labelling can be another controversial issue.
The Food Standards Code 1.2.5 states that date marking is not required on food with a best before date of 2 years or more.
It could be successfully argued that honey will remain marketable after two years and will retain the specific qualities of honey provided that;
So you can choose not to use a best before date.
Some producers may wish to apply a best before date in place of a lot identification. In the case of honey you are only required to use the month and the year for example;
The Food Standards Code 1.2.6 – 2 requires a direction for use and storage statement if specific storage conditions are required to ensure that the food will keep until the use-by date or the best-before date or if the food must be used or stored in accordance with certain directions for health or safety reasons.
Directions for use and/or storage of food are only mandatory where the food is of a nature that warrants directions about the use or storage of the food for health or safety reasons, for example, keep refrigerated or cook thoroughly.
Given that honey is shelf-stable over a wide range of conditions and doesn’t require a best before or use-by date it is safe to assume that a direction for use and storage statement is not required on your honey label.
If you choose to include directions for use and storage on your honey label a statement similar to “store in a cool, dry place” is sufficient.
Unfortunately honey does not fall into the list of the foods that are exempt from carrying a nutrition information panel.
The NIP on your honey label must be in the standard format prescribed by the Food Standards Code 1.2.8.
Thankfully Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has developed a honey nutrition label template calculator.
The nutrition label calculator will generate your honey nutrition information panel for you in a PDF format that can go straight onto your label.
Just click this nutrition panel calculator link and follow the directions.
New laws regarding Country of Origin Labelling came into force on July 1, 2018.
The Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 sets out the country of origin labelling requirements for food for human consumption that is sold in Australia.
The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has published an online tool that will generate a country of origin label for you.
If you are producing honey sourced from your Australian beehives your country of origin label will look similar to the “Australian Honey” image below.
It is also acceptable to use wording like “Product of Australia” or “Produce of Australia”, and the online tool gives you those options.
Business.gov.au has produced a useful set of resources for Country of Origin Food Labelling which also includes the Country of Origin Food Labelling Style Guide.
A word of warning. Should you choose to add any imported ingredients to your honey, e.g. cinnamon, you must declare that when you are in the online tool.
The online tool will change the wording to “Made in Australia from 95% Australian Ingredients” or similar.
It will also populate the bar under the kangaroo. Anyone who does not declare imported ingredients in their products and uses the premium claim, e.g. “Australian Honey” is committing an offence and deceiving their customers.
In Australia, it is normal to indicate the net weight of the honey in the package rather than volume.
The weights should be expressed in kilograms (kg) or grams (g)
Weights and measures declarations are regulated in Australia by the Australian National Measurement Institute.
The Australian National Measurement Institute has published a Guide to the Sale of Pre Packaged Goods which provides a lot of information about labelling.
A well-designed honey label is an excellent opportunity to promote your business and sell your honey. There is nothing worse than seeing a great product in poorly labelled packages.
Placing a barcode on your honey label will give you a big advantage should you be considering supplying your honey to retail stores. Even the smallest corner stores scan barcodes on products to calculate the total cost of your purchases. You can apply for barcodes for you labels by joining GS1 Australia. Join GS1 Australia online and get barcodes.
Tamper-proof packaging is not mandated by the Food Standards Code. However, larger retail outlets may require you to provide it on your honey products.
Many lids that fit on plastic honey containers have tamper-evident seals built into the design. The metal lids that fit onto glass jars don’t have tamper-evident seals, and you may want to use plastic shrink wrap seals or paper tags over the cap to indicate that the product hasn’t been opened before sale.
It is imperative that you never mislead your customers by making representations about your honey that are not true.
In general terms, you must be able to substantiate any claims that you make and this may mean that you have to keep documentation in support of your claims.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a publication “Food and Beverage Industry – Food Descriptors Guideline to the Trade Practices Act”.
So if your labelling says Pure, Kosher, Biodynamic honey from the Darling Downs, you should be able to back the claim up.
You should read this document if you are in any doubt at all about any representations on your honey labels.
Don’t forget to tell a story about your product. Your customers want to know where the honey is from and how it was produced.
Talk your honey up by all means, but you must never be dishonest when describing it.
Never mislead or deceive your customers.
Don’t forget to put the links to your
sites on your labels.
Social media used wisely is a great way to promote your product.
Beekeepers understand that certain types of honey are susceptible to candying or crystallising.
Consumers tend to get confused about the process of crystallisation, and some people may feel that it indicates that the honey has spoiled or deteriorated in some way.
It may be wise if space permits on your label to provide a short explanation that honey will at times be prone to crystallisation and the process can be reversed by gently warming the honey.
It is well worthwhile to spend a few hundred dollars getting your labels designed professionally.
Unless you have those specific skills, it can be challenging getting a concept or idea onto a paper label.
A catchy logo can make your product stand out from other poorly designed labels.
We used Giant Media in the Coffs Harbour area.
Always pack your honey into new food-grade containers such as glass jars with new lids or plastic tubs.
The use of second hand or recycled packaging creates a very poor impression for the consumer.
More importantly, packaging that is not food grade or contaminated can have a terrible impact on your reputation if you get consumer complaints.
We have used:
Supplying honey in small jars to guests for wedding favours is becoming increasingly popular. I am frequently asked if wedding favour honey needs to be labelled in the same way as honey for commercial sale.
There are quite a few exemptions to labelling in the Food Standards Code.
Food Standards Code 1.2.1 – 6 (1) states “If the food for sale is in a package, it is required to bear a label with the information referred to in subsection 1.2.1—8 (1) unless it (d) is delivered packaged, and ready for consumption, at the express order of the purchaser.
In plain English, that means that if the purchaser buys the honey directly from you and wants the honey packaged in a certain way then gives it away as wedding favours then you can put any sort of label (or no label at all) on the jars.
We can review your honey labels to make sure that they are fully compliant with the requirements of the Food Standards Code.
We will provide you with a written report starting from $25.00.
Contact us to ask us about a honey label review.
The owner of Mt. Coramba Apiculture, Glenn Locke, has had the beekeeping urge since the early 1980s as a 14-year-old teenager.
The Warwick (QLD) high school agriculture department had a few beehives and beekeeping was taught as a subject. Glenn’s agriculture teacher Jim Caird let him have a nucleus hive, and the addiction started.
Glenn has had a long career in the food industry including 16 years as an audit & compliance officer with the NSW Food Authority. Food labelling and food labelling fraud was a significant part of his work and Glenn took part in many high profile prosecutions involving non-compliant labelling and misleading conduct by food businesses.
The move to the mid-north coast of NSW and particularly the beautiful Orara Valley means that Glenn now has the space to commence beekeeping again. Glenn has managed beehives in the Orara Valley since 2009.
We supply high quality local, raw honey.
Do you have questions about honey labelling? Leave a comment below or contact us.