Buy real NZ Manuka UMF honey click here, or else please read on
Good quality UMF Manuka honey is in short supply. 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 check with your honey suppliers to obtain a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to ensure you are purchasing genuine UMF Manuka Honey. For those of use unfamiliar with COA, you can refer to these links for sample1.
Recently the Consumer Council in Hong Kong had allegedly discovered adulteration of the honey in about one-quarter of the 55 samples of honey tested. It is still being debated if this is a consequence of false positive whereby sugar syrup is showing up in geniune manuka honey due to obsolete test methods or indeed honey has been contaminated in the export process to Hong Kong.
Bee Products Standards
Council chairman Jim Edwards said "If the
Consumer Council had discovered adulteration of
the honey, then he could only speculate about
how it would have taken place. We have no
evidence that deliberate adulteration is taking
place in New Zealand,'' Mr Edwards said.
British laboratory testing has found that honey labelled by 12 of 27 as New Zealand produce had none of the unique antibacterial properties attributed to manuka. Read the full article here
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. The main methods of doing so are by adding less active honey or by adding sugar syrup. 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.
The take-away from all these is that one should buy manuka honey brands that have been packed, tested and certified in New Zealand. Buy brands that New Zealanders themselves are consuming and not those brands they used for 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 Explained
All honey contains
Hydrogen Peroxide 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.
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
Professor Thomas Henle of the Technical University of Dresden (Germany) discovered that Methylglyoxal 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.
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
a trademark that can be used only by
users in the UMFHA
So in summary UMF® is a quality trademark.
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.
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
UMF 15+ = MGOTM 514
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' 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
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) Produced and packed in New Zealand
b) UMF licensee number of the producer(unfortuntely there is no consistent labelling)
c) Company name that matches those found at www.umf.org.nz/licensees
d) Batch Number so that it can be traced to laboratory results
e) Expiry Date
In addition it does not harm to check on the following prior to your purchase of UMF honey
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.
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.
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.
Please take a look at which countries buy the most NZ honey here