Tutin Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Compliance with the ‘Tutin in Honey’ Food Standard is an unavoidable part of life for those producing honey for any reason other than to eat it themselves.  The Food Standard is a brief and well written document, and we encourage people to download and read it – see https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/11137-food-standard-tutin-in-honey

We do get occasional questions from honey producers about some aspects of tutin testing which we thought we would briefly cover here.

If I have more than one batch of honey, can I make my own composite sample and then send that to Analytica for testing?

In short, no.  The Food Standard is clear in saying that an approved laboratory needs to form composite samples for tutin testing, if the results are to be considered as being compliant with the Food Standard.  Our low cost 5 sample composite tutin pack makes it very cost effective to have composite testing done in a way that complies with MPI’s expectations.

Why is it that honeys in a failed tutin composite test, when retested individually, can all retest below the Maximum Residue Limit of 0.7 mg/kg?

This does not happen often – but when it does, it can be really frustrating and confusing for people.

Occasionally a composite tutin result is high enough that it is regarded as a ‘Fail’ when comparing it to the Food Standard.  As a laboratory we need to consider the worst case scenario with a composite sample, and assume that all tutin residue in a composite sample could have come from one sample in the composite.  Sometimes that is not the case, and a number of samples in the composite have low levels of tutin in them which add together to mean there is enough tutin in the composite to fail, but none are high enough to fail individually.

There is no easy way to avoid this.  Running smaller composite groups will reduce the risk of this happening, and will reduce the number of individual re-tests that are needed if the composite does fail.  And grouping any samples together that are at some risk of containing tutin will also help.

If I want to test my comb honey for tutin, is it OK to send in some comb honey in its final packaging for testing?

The Food Standard has very specific requirements for testing comb honey – and many producers find these quite restrictive.  One pack of packed comb honey is not considered a suitable way of checking for tutin in the batch it comes from because high tutin honey may be present in honey cells of some packs of comb honey, but not others.

The correct way of testing for tutin in comb honey is to collect the drippings left after cutting the comb from frames, mix well, and then send a sample of that to the laboratory for testing.  Theoretically this provides a more representative sample of the honey in the batch.  If we are sent a sample of packed comb honey, we will unfortunately not be able to test it for tutin.

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