Phoney honey causes a stir as consumers warned over Turkish import

A green-and-gold label and a big map of Australia. Must be Australian-made. Except it isn’t.

Warning: Beekeeper Gavin Jamieson with a container of the Turkish honey, which might not even be honey at all. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

Warning: Beekeeper Gavin Jamieson with a container of the Turkish honey, which might not even be honey at all. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

The Turkish honey which may not even be honey.

The Turkish honey which may not even be honey.

Ballarat beekeeper Gavin Jamieson discovered 1kg tubs of product called ‘Hi Honey’ being sold at a stall on the side of the Western Highway, which had all the appearance of Australian-made honey. However, hidden under a price ticket were the words “made in Turkey”.

Mr Jamieson said it highlighted weaknesses in country-of-origin labelling legislation or, at the very least, how well it was being policed.

He warned consumers that just because a product looks like Australian honey they shouldn’t assume it is.

“False and deceptive marketing is an ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) matter. I don’t think the ACCC is doing enough. In some situations the commission does not publicise a successful court case,” Mr Jamieson said.

“More particularly, people need to know any product made in Australia needs to have the label ‘Product of Australia’, which means no substitutes from overseas may be put in.”

The Courier contacted Bera Foods, the Campbellfield company that imported Hi Honey.

Bera Foods general manager Ibrahim Ozdamar denied the labelling was deliberately misleading, insisting the label did say the product was manufactured in Turkey. 

He said Bera Foods was no longer importing the product after complaints about its quality and was now selling Tasmanian honey produced by R. Stephens in Mole Creek. The Hi Honey product could still be for sale from distributors supplied by Bera Foods, he said. 

“It doesn’t say it was made in Australia. It obviously says it was made in Turkey,” Mr Ozdamar said. “The label and the colour is about marketing because it was sold in Australia.

“I’ve stopped buying that product because we had real headaches with it. A lot of the problem is the quality. It is cheaper, of course, but it does not taste as good as Australian honey.”

Australian Honeybee Industry Council executive director Trevor Weatherhead said the Hi Honey product had been tested in Germany and found to be 100 per cent C4 sugar, most likely corn syrup.

He said three Turkish products sold as honey were not honey under the Australian and New Zealand Food Standard definition.

“Anything being imported should be inspected by the food import section of the Department of Agriculture, however only five per cent of honey is inspected,” Mr Weatherhead said.

“The labelling should have been picked up but it wasn’t. We complained about Victoria Honey, another Turkish product, but the Victorian health department wouldn’t recall because it was not a public health risk.

“The ACCC has now told the Senate Estimates Committee there will be enforcement action in two to three weeks.” 

Victorian Senator John Madigan said consumers had the right to know where products came from without having to read fine print. 

“Laws in the area need to be tightened so consumers can tell at a glance where their food has come from,” the Democratic Labour Party Senator said. “You shouldn’t have to get out a magnifying glass to find where the product comes from – it should be in plain sight.”