How To Ensure That The Manuka Honey You’re Browsing Is Genuine
Highly sought after, thanks to its well-publicised positive effects on our wellbeing, you’ll likely come across many different brands of Manuka honey whilst out shopping. With so much choice, comes confusion – which product is right for me? Does the lettering and numbering refer to a type of Manuka? MGO Manuka honey is a particular grading system you may come across.
The lettering on Manuka honey labels will generally refer to the testing system that the product inside has been subjected to, in order to measure the strength of a particular component. The trouble is that some tests are better at establishing what makes up ‘genuine’ Manuka than others. Let’s take MGO as an example.
The MGO Manuka Honey Test
‘MGO’ is shorthand for the chemical compound ‘Methylglyoxal’; the active ingredient in Manuka honey that provides it with an anti-bacterial quality. The MGO test looks for Methylglyoxal content(the numbering on the label). The higher the MGO number, the more potent the antibacterial element in the honey is (well, is supposed to be...)
The trouble is that Methylglyoxal can also be produced synthetically; so high ratings of MGO will not necessarily mean that the honey inside will be genuine (natural) Manuka honey. It’s also common for ‘Manuka honey’ products to be counterfeited – some 10,000 tons of ‘Manuka’ are sold each year. Due to the very short window in which the Manuka plant grows each year (only 2-6 weeks) only around 1,700 tons are produced on an annual basis1. A massive disparity.
Aside from MGO Manuka honey, other testing systems that you may come across include TA (‘Total Activity’) which look at the Hydrogen Peroxide levels. The trouble with this is that all honey types contain some sort of Hydrogen Peroxide level – which can be affected by outside elements such as heat and light. The MGO in genuine Manuka is more stable – but with the MGO test not being robust enough to indicate whether the Manuka product is genuine, how can you ensure that the one you’re looking at, is?
Are There Any Comprehensive Test For Genuine Manuka Honey?
Whilst the test for MGO in Manuka honey is certainly useful in understanding the strength of one particular element, it does not test for the two other unique chemical compounds that occur naturally within the genuine Manuka; Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and Leptosperin. Only the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) test does.
In order to understand that the tested honey is genuine, the UMF test looks for these three unique markers. Leptosperin is only found in Manuka plants (so acts as the indicator), whereas DHA creates the process that allows MGO to flourish. Without the three, you simply do not have genuine Manuka honey.
Unlike the MGO test, the numbering system of UMF Manuka honey is completely different, so in comparison:
UMF5 + contains at least MGO 83
UMF 10+ contains at least MGO 263
UMF 15+ contains at least MGO 514
UMF 20+ contains at least MGO 829
Making Sure You’re Investing In the Right Manuka Products
Why is Manuka honey so rare? It is because the Manuka plants only grow in a small part of the world – the beautiful untouched landscape of New Zealand, with only 2-6 weeks of flowering season available. As one of the country’s most popular exports, the NZ government have recently made a move to secure the reputation of MGO Manuka honey, in the wake of the reports on its counterfeiting.
A new Manuka honey definition has been devised that does not allow for the export of anything marked ‘Manuka’ without first undergoing an independent test. Designed to give product creators, retailers and customers alike increased confidence in the product, the hope is that it will help to close the gap that counterfeiters get through, to create fakes. So if you’re ever out browsing those Manuka honey labels, always make sure that you read them carefully and are able to see that they have been shipped from New Zealand.
Here at Comvita, we are a proud member of the UMFHA (Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association) with our products tested for their quality and purity. Please feel free to browse our UMF Manuka honey page to learn more.