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AFB Testing: Commonly Asked Questions

Monday, October 11, 2021, Author: Leanne McGill

BACKGROUND

American foulbrood (AFB) is a disease caused by bacteria (Paenibacillus larvae larvae) that infect developing brood, and in doing so weaken and kill the hive. AFB is a notifiable disease that has been governed by a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) since 1998. AFB has been found in New Zealand hives for over a century, and the first legislation to control it was passed in 1906. The current Pest Management Strategy for AFB became law in 1998, and all beekeepers in New Zealand should be familiar with its requirements to inspect hives regularly, destroy any infected hives, and report the results of inspections to the AFB Management Agency.

The Management Agency’s website (www.afb.org.nz) provides a great deal of useful information. Requirements for AFB testing changed significantly in late 2020, when the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) informed the industry that honey exported to China may be tested for the presence of AFB bacteria or spores by Chinese laboratories. As a result, any honey being exported to China must now be tested for AFB by an MPI Recognised Laboratory Programme (RLP) Approved Laboratory, and there must be no AFB detected in the sample before it is approved to be exported to China. While Chinese laboratories may still test honey arriving in China for AFB, this does ensure that no honey with detectable AFB in it is exported there. These requirements have created an entirely new level of need for AFB testing in New Zealand.

Not only are shipments of honey sent to China being tested, but also bulk honey offered for sale in New Zealand is also being tested to check whether it is suitable to use in manufacturing honey for export to China.