Manuka honey, a natural product renowned for its antibacterial and potential health benefits, has been at the center of a prolonged legal dispute between Australia and New Zealand. In this episode of the Xtalks Food Podcast, Sydney talks about the conflict, which involves the naming rights to “Manuka honey,” a product whose potential health benefits and significant price markup have made it a highly sought-after commodity in the international market. The Manuka honey trademark battle began in earnest in 2015 when New Zealand producers first tried to establish an exclusive right to the term. The latest round of the dispute concluded in May 2023, when the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office ruled that New Zealand’s Manuka beekeepers’ attempt to trademark the term did not meet the necessary requirements. This decision is significant as it suggests that the term Manuka, a Māori word of the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, is not exclusively linked to New Zealand’s honey production. The team discusses other food items, including maple syrup and parmesan cheese, and the role that cultural heritage plays in the food industry.
Also in this episode, Sydney talks about a recent milk commercial starring actress Aubrey Plaza that has emerged as a symbol of the ongoing clash between dairy and plant-based milk producers. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit organization focusing on public health advocacy, has taken their concerns to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General. The group’s complaint addresses the satirical milk commercial for a fictional product — Wood Milk — that debuted in April. The committee suggests that the advertisement might have been improperly sanctioned by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Sydney gives some examples of other recent ad campaigns for plant-based milk brands and delves into the controversial Wood Milk ad. While the team doesn’t believe the ad needs to be taken down, they agreed that a promotional ad, rather than an attack ad, would have been more beneficial and less confusing.
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