MANUKA LABELLING - I JUST DON'T GET IT!

We have been doing a lot of local A & P shows and fetes, so we often get asked the million dollar Manuka Honey question - what does UMF mean and is your Manuka Honey the real deal? 

The short answer is YES it is the real deal.

We know it's confusing and we are sorry that customers feel this way, but a little knowledge is dangerous, so here goes with the big guns and a full explanation. 

What is so special about mānuka honey?

Mānuka [ mā·nu·ka  ] Honey comes from the nectar of the flower of the Mānuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) which is indigenous to New Zealand. It is the nectar and the bee that give this honey its unique properties. The Mānuka flower produces nectar with characteristic and unique signature compounds.

It is sourced mainly from the North Island but there are many spots in the South Island where the high activity Manuka is found.  In order to sell your Manuka Honey- Multiflora labelled as such, you need to have passed the MPI Manuka 5 attributes test.

MPI said " Our reputation for honey production and export rests on the integrity of our products and the credibility of our systems.  In December 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) finalised a robust and sophisticated scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether or not a particular honey is New Zealand, mānuka honey." 

Tests to authenticate mānuka honey

All honey labelled as mānuka for export must be tested by an MPI-recognised laboratory to make sure it meets the new mānuka honey definition.

The mānuka honey definition is made up of a combination of 5 attributes (4 chemicals from nectar and 1 DNA marker from mānuka pollen). This allows the industry to:

  • separate mānuka honey from other honey types
  • identify it as either monofloral or multifloral mānuka honey.

This infographic is great.

So, what is UMF®  

UMF® is an acronym for 'Unique Manuka Factor' and is an antibacterial property which is present in Active Manuka Honey. 

UMF® is a trademark which means that companies or marketers using it need to pay royalties and belong to a group called - Active Manuka Honey Association.  Most of the time companies using UMF have higher price tag products to cover the trademark expenses and are heavily into exporting.

The presence of the UMF® property can be detected only by special scientific testing using criteria laid down by the Honey Research Unit at The University of Waikato.  This article on DHA, MG, and manuka honey activity is worth a read.  Read more

UMF ratings are based on specific natural markers, characteristic of Manuka Honey, such as leptosperin and methylglyoxal. UMF ratings correspond to the potency of the desirable NPA properties of honey. Typically honey with NPA between 5 and 9.9 are labelled UMF 5+, honey with NPA ratings between 10.0 and 14.9 are rated UMF 10+, and so on.

NPA Rating 

NPA stands for 'Non Peroxide Activity'.  This is terminology that is actually used on the lab certificates of analysis for every jar of  Manuka honey harvested. It is the property that makes certain grades of UMF and MGO manuka honey special.

We do not use the NPA rating, or do we use the UMF trademarks as the cost is passed to the customer and as beekeepers and a family run business we have decided to keep the costs of our honey affordable for the New Zealand market.

It is generally accepted that Manuka Honey with a UMF®,or MGO rating of 10 or higher is appropriate for therapeutic use. The higher the UMF or MGO (i.e. the NPA rating), the higher the antibacterial activity although there is an upper limit - typically about 15+  to the naturally occurring activity level of the honey when it is harvested fresh from the hive.

Hydrogen peroxide is the substance that is responsible for the majority of antibacterial activity in honey.  The slow-release mechanism in honey that produces hydrogen peroxide is a chemical reaction. Honey contains glucose and an enzyme added by honeybees called glucose oxidase. Under the right conditions, glucose oxidase has the ability to break down glucose into hydrogen peroxide.

MGO RATING

Some honey producers instead use an MG or MGO rating.  MGO is methylglyoxal, sometimes referred to as MG.

Use this table to convert between manuka honey UMF, MGO and NPA ratings.

UMF RATING

MINIMUM MGO*
METHYLGLYOXAL

MINIMUM NPA**
NON-PEROXIDE ACTIVITY

UMF 20+

829

20.0

UMF 18+

692

18.0

UMF 15+

550

15.6

UMF 15+

514

15.0

UMF 12+

400

12.9

UMF 12+

354

12.0

UMF 10+

263

10.0

UMF 5+

100

5.6

UMF 5+

83

5.0

-

30

2.7

* MGO is measured as mg/kg (ppm)
** NPA is measured as % solution (%w/v) of phenol/water

Our Manuka Honey is Multifloral

Manuka Honey

All our Manuka Honey can be traced back to a lab certificate which has been issued by an ISO 9001 certified laboratory.    

We pass the MPI test for multifloral mānuka honey which requires all of the 5 attributes in both tests. If the honey fails to meet one or more of the attributes, it is not mānuka honey.

Test 1: Chemical test

The following chemicals all need to be present and at these levels:

  • 3-phenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 20 mg/kg but less than 400mg/kg
  • 2’-methoxyacetophenone at a level greater than or equal to 1mg/kg
  • 2-methoxybenzoic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1mg/kg
  • 4-hydroxyphenyllactic acid at a level greater than or equal to 1mg/kg

Test 2: DNA test

  • DNA level from mānuka pollen is less than Cq 36, which is approximately 3fg/µL