Producer sees no threat in lavender regulation

GERARD HUTCHING
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2014

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New Zealand's largest lavender oil manufacturer says he has no problem with European moves to regulate the oil, although smaller growers feel threatened.

The European Union has classified the essential oils made from lavender as toxic. Furious producers in Europe say they could be forced out of business by the threat to put hazard warnings on their oils.

But Owen Dexter of NZ Lavender in Rakaia said the regulations would affect only those who produced cosmetics.

"Governments are saying that growers have to be accountable for the things they produce, however natural they are. It's a bit like saying that if you want to sell jam at a farmers' market, you must use an approved kitchen," Dexter said.

However, Lavender Growers Association chairman Russell Rofe said the EU moves were driven by the pharmaceutical industry, which saw the profits of natural products eating into its market.

Lavender contains linalyl acetate which is an allergen.

Dexter, whose company grows 110,000 plants, said he had chosen a variety from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens for production because it contained a third of the allergens of other plants.

"We've been testing every year and know exactly how many allergens are in each of our oils. It's a plant and some people are allergic - eucalyptus and citrus have some of the same chemicals in them," he said.

"We were aware of those allergen testings and this sort of development is in our favour."

NZ Lavender does not make cosmetics but exports oil to customers in 18 countries, including some in the EU. Some of those may use the oil for shampoo or facial creams, or sell it as a fragrance.

Lavender Creek Farm in Te Horo has 7000 plants and produces a range of products such as massage balm, shampoos, and deodorants.

Owner Susi White said lavender was used extensively as a medicine and was a "good, honest product".

Rofe said there were 66 members in the growers association, most of whom would be making "pocket money" from lavender growing.

He said besides being used as a fragrance and in cosmetics, lavender oil was also applied as an antiseptic and analgesic.

In recent trials scientists concluded that lavender essential oils protected against diabetes, partly because of its potent antioxidant properties.

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- The Dominion Post

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