Buy real NZ Manuka UMF honey click here, or read about origins of Unique Manuka Factor

Good quality UMF Manuka honey is in short supply due to weather changes affecting manuka trees in NZ north island. Bees growers in New Zealand are not able to get the yield this year and the activity level is not as good as previous years. So it would be prudent to request your honey suppliers for a copy of the Certificate of Analysis (COA) addressed to the company labels listed in UMF licensees to ensure you are purchasing UMF Manuka Honey compliant with UMFHA standards. For those unfamiliar with COA, you can refer to this link for a sample1.

In Singapore there are at least 6 private labels of manuka honey associated with a one UMF licensee number. If the brand you are thinking of is not listed here it is probably a private label manuka honey. Although private label manuka honey comes from a licensed NZ packing company, private labels themselves are not UMFHA members.

The truth is about 70% of manuka honey produced is active. There is a clear incentive to use untested or adulterated manuka honey to fetch a higher price.  Furthermore some can heat up the manuka honey to get a short-lived high activity for testing which can last for about 10-15 days afterwhich almost all the activity will subside. Read more below about HMF 3-in-1 test to identify temperate-abused manuka honey.

The take-away from all these is that one should buy manuka honey brands(labels) that have been produced, packed, tested and certified in New Zealand by the UMFHA member company themselves. These companies/labels need to have Risk Management Certificate (RMC), export certificates and UMF certificates. 

Manuka trees are mainly found in New Zealand North Island.  Without these trees and manuka flowers, the bees can't give us Manuka honey.  Is your manuka honey producer having a NZ North Island address?

Buy brands that New Zealanders themselves are consuming and not those private brands that are used for packing & export purposes. Alternatively buy those that has been retested by AsureQuality Singapore Pte Ltd

Confused about UMF vs MGO vs Active Manuka Honey?

What is the difference between UMF, MGO and Active Manuka Honey? Click here to watch Dr Peter Nolan's demo

Teatree (Leptospermum scoparium) is a shrub which occurs in New Zealand, where it is called Manuka. Honey derived from the manuka tree often exhibits antibacterial activity (UMF) that is unrelated to the content of the hydrogen peroxide which is responsible for the antibacterial activity of other normal honeys.

Studies at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany and at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, have now proven that the Manuka's antibacterial properties are somewhat related to methylglyoxal content and other unknown compounds. This unique activity of manuka honey is due to the presence of methyl glyoxal, the origin of which has not so far been determined, although it is well known among beekeepers that non-peroxide activity increases with storage.

It would also seem that there is variation in the amount of dihydroxyacetone in the nectar and that certain manuka trees have the potential to produce honeys with high nonperoxide antibacterial activity, whereas others do not.

It is believed that the Manuka honey's is effective for treatment of antibiotic resistant MRSA super bugs, bed sores and other external ulcerative conditions,, E Coli, Staphylococcus Aureus (the most common cause of wound infection) and Streptococcus Pyogenes ( stubborn , often anti biotic resistant bacteria which inflame and cause sore throats).

Bee Have Value in Medicine: Honey Helps Wounds Heal

The Egyptians, Sumerians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans all valued honey, and honey is mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran. While the healing powers of honey faded in comparison to the new antibiotics introduced in the 20th century, today’s superbugs make any natural food with anti-bacteria properties worth considering. Read here

PA, NPA, MGO, UMF, DHA, HMF Explained

All honey contains Hydrogen Peroxide (PA) in various degrees, that is why honey in general is considered to be an antibacterial product use for treatment of wounds. The enzyme, glucose oxidaze, that produces Hydrogen Peroxide in the honey is not stable. Heat, light and body enzymes destroys it. However the honey produced by bees pollinating manuka plants in New Zealand was found to have an additional plant derived antibacterial activity called Non Peroxide Activity (NPA). This NPA is resistant to heat and light sources and body enzymes do not destroy it quickly. Studies have found it to be effective for treatment
of wound infections.

The antibacterial activity of honey in New Zealand has been measured by the agar diffusion assay, which measures antibacterial effect of honey against the concentration of Phenol. However to measure NPA, an enzyme Catalyze is required to neutralize the Hydrogen Peroxide activity. In normal table honey, this treatment will kill off the peroxide activity. In manuka honey this treatment will leave behind what is called the NPA residual in the manuka honey. So a UMF® 10 honey does the same job as 10% solution of Phenol against bacteria, a UMF® 15 has the strength of 15% solution of Phenol.

However the above method of testing is rather unreliable and has room for errors and there is little control to prevent unscrupulous manuka honey suppliers to just test of Peroxide Activity and labelled these Active 10+, 15+, 20+ manuka honey.

The above test is the Staphylococcus aureus bioassay test which relies on the technician measuring the amount of inhibition when the honey is added. This test is more susceptible to variations between lab technicians. Also due to limited sensitivity and inaccuracy activities below 5% equivalent phenol concentration is not detectable.

Professor Thomas Henle of the Technical University of Dresden (Germany) discovered that Methylglyoxal (MGO) are exclusively responsible for the unique anti-bacterial activity of New Zealand Manuka Honey. The level of Methylglyoxal in Manuka Honey ranges from 30mg/kg to 900mg/kg, whereas in 45 other samples of honey tested it did not exceed 8mg/kg.

Based on the German method, the industry has adopted the Methylglyoxal standard that leaves no room for cheating. Testing for Methylglyoxal is accurate and consistent with +-5% Error. Hence labs like Hill Laboratories in New Zealand measures Methylglyoxal - the compound that is exclusively responsible for Manuka Honey's unique anti-bacterial activity and then correlate it to NPA based on the correlation table provided by UMFHA.

While Methylglyoxal(MGO) plays an important part in Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties, it isn’t the only component that makes Manuka honey such a powerful natural antibacterial. A scientific study done in 2011 noted this interesting fact  even after MGO was neutralized, there are still antibacterial properties in Manuka honey.

So the UMF Honey Association has become the platform for licensing honey producers to adhere to certain guidelines for labelling testing manuka honey to minimize fake and adulterated honey. More recently many laboratories and honey producers are advocating the use of 3-in-one tests. It is now well know that ‘non-peroxide’ antimicrobial activity (NPA) is closely related to the presence of the compound methylglyoxal (MGO) as shown in table below

In 2009, scientists at the University of Waikato showed that the Methylglyoxal (MGO) in New Zealand manuka honey originates from the chemical compound Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is present in the nectar of manuka flowers to varying degrees. Hence we now know climate change may have an impact on the production of Manuka Honey MGO concentration.

Fresh manuka honey produced by bees contains low levels of MGO and high levels of DHA. Storage of these honeys at room temperature led to a decrease in DHA and an increase in MGO over time. So manuka honey with a high DHA concentration will potentially end up with higher MGO concentration when compared with a low DHA concentration manuka honey sample. So UMF® level of Manuka Honey may increase over time under normal storage conditions.

The rate of conversion from DHA to MGO in manuka honey is temperature dependent. The higher temperature, the faster the DHA->MGO conversion. For this reason, adulteration may occur when honey producers quickly heats the honey to increase MGO concentration to commercial value. Heating Manuka honey above 30 degrees Celsius produced a compound called hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF).

However temperature-abused Manuka honey MGO concentration will decline quickly over time while genuine Manuka Honey can maintain the MGO levels over 3 or more years. Genuine Manuka Honey tested should have a reading of less than 80mg/kg of HMF compound as shown.

summerglow 3in1

UMF® stands for Unique Manuka Factor. UMF® has become the trademark for identifying natural manuka honey that has a special non-peroxide antibacterial activity found only in some strains of manuka honey. It is also believed that the strength is non-peroxide antibacterial activity is dependent on the different varieties of L. scoparium being harvested by the honeybees.

UMF® is a trademark protecting your rights as a consumer because not all manuka honey has the NPA (non-peroxide activity) and among those that do the strength varies.

UMF® is a trademark that can only be issued to licensed members in the UMFHA

So in summary UMF® is a quality trademark. Look for the original brands licensed by UMF org.

Methylglyoxal(MGO) is a laboratory test performed by approved UMFHA test centres (e.g., Hill Laboratories) to determine the strength of the UMF Manuka Honey. The accurate way to determine strength of Manuka Honey is by measuring levels of Methylglyoxal, e.g 600mg/kg

NPA is the number (10+, 16+, 20+) after the UMF® trademark in a jar of Manuka Honey derived by using the UMFHA correlation table translating a Methylglyoxal(MGO) value to a NPA value.

DHA is an indicator potential MGO concentration. The higher the DHA the better.
HMF is an indicator of potentially temperature-abused Manuka Honey. Low HMF value (<40) is preferred.

MGO Manuka Honey

MGO is the Methylglyoxal content  that plays a part of honey's antibacterial properties. While MGO plays an important part in Manuka honey's antibacterial properties, it isn't the  only factor. However if you are interested in the conversion of antibacterial strength between UMF and MGO, the table below may be helpful

UMF 10+  = MGOTM 260
UMF 15+  = MGOTM 514

UMF 16+ =  MGOTM  573
UMF 20+  = MGOTM 829
UMF 25+  = MGOTM 1200 

In a peer-reviewed paper published, the German researchers show good correlation between methylglyoxal levels in 61 manuka honey samples and their antibacterial ratings in equivalent phenol concentration

UMF and MGO ratings are both used to indicate the antibacterial strength of Manuka Honey.

UMF is the industry standard. MGO is only used by Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd.

UMF and MGO measure the strength of Manuka honey in different ways, however there is a relationship between the level of Methylglyoxal and the Non Perocide Activity (as measured by the UMF).

If you would like to compare the strength of a honey from MGO to UMF or vice versa, the table above can be a rough guide. If you are interested, please click here to use NPA to MGO calculator

Active Honey

'Active' means there is some level of peroxide activity which we know that all honey does have that glucose oxidase enzyme. It is likely that this honey has been mixed with some manuka honey. 'Active' here could mean test including the normal hydrogen peroxide antispectic and other antibacterial activity. So Active 20+ does not necessary mean it is related to the antibacterial property of non-peroxide agents. Click here to see how heat and storage affect NPA activity

nubee active manukamanuka honey active 12NZ active manuka

Which is better?

The question we hear frequently is how do I know I am paying for the real thing when buying Manuka honey. One way is to ensure that the packaging for the UMF have the following:

a) It has the quality trademark UMF stated on the front label

b) It is packed into retail jars and labelled in New Zealand

c) It is from a NZ company licensed to use the UMF quality trademark (

d) It has the NZ UMF Licensee's Brand Name and license number on the front label.  A local brand name associated with a license number may not represent the quality trademark of UMF

e) It has a rating number alongside the UMF trademark. A number on its own does not identify genuine UMF Manuka Honey

f) It has a batch Number so that it can be traced to laboratory results. Always ask for laboratory results if you are not sure.

g) It has an Expiry Date. The UMF rating must hold until the honey expiry date. Temperature abused honey UMF rating drops very quickly.

The above is not just any checklist from any manuka honey seller. It is a checklist validated by a genuine UMF honey producer who has been in the business for over 37 years.

In addition it does not harm to check on the following prior to your purchase of UMF honey

umf manukhoney check2


You will also find a list of NZ honey producers here

The Manuka brand has been hijacked by many retailers and producer due to the high growth and interest in Manuka honey. There is much evidence of fake brands leveraging on the hype including Active, OMHA.  The reality is the amount of methylglyoxal in these honeys is probably around 10 to 25 mg/kgs way below an effective level but is able to sell at close to UMF 10. It is a case of caveat emptor (buyer's beware).

There is an interesting article originally from Fairfax NZ News which reported that of the 33 jars of "manuka honey" that we on sale in Singapore that they have tested 15 were not "true to label". Some possessed none of the activity claimed. Others have less than the label stated.

It appears that the misleading New Zealand product situation is serious enough for a group of manuka honey producers to fund a project to develop a fool-proof means to determine the real manuka honey. They are developing a chemical marker test called high-resolution mass spectrometry to produce a chemical profile of manuka honey, against which all honeys being marketed as manuka can be compared.

For the above reasons, some brands from NZ like Manuka Health have decided to go the MGO route

Also interesting to note that the Australian "manuka" honey is from is own variety of manuka tree, called the jellytree. "Manuka" honey from Australia comes from Leptospermum polygalifolium tree vs  Leptospermum scoparium in New Zealand. So there is a difference.

Also the famous tea-tree oil does not come from the Leptospermum species of plants. Tea tree oil is produced from the Australian group of trees of the Melaleuca genus, named similarly as another source of tea. It is from Melaleuca plants that the well known tea tree oil is produced.

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Where are all the Singapore natural honey from?

Singapore imports over 60% in USD terms of natural honey from New Zealand. However close to 40% in USD terms are imported from Australia, China, United Kingdom, USA and the rest of the world. (Data extracted from UN Comtrade). Note that in volume terms (kgs) of honey imports, NZ only accounts for 30% of import for Singapore.

singapore honey import

You will be pleased to know that Singaporean's appetite for honey from New Zealand have increased a whopping 54% YoY from 2011 to 2012. But one should note the the volume of imports in terms of kgs from Australia and China has also increased.

singapore nzhoney imports

Please take a look at which countries buy the most NZ honey here

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