4 out of 5 jars of manuka honey are fake
April 13, 2016
New Zealand produces about 1,700 tons of manuka honey in a season, yet 10,000 tons are sold annually world-wide. It's scary, I know, but do the math on that and 4 out of 5 jars of manuka honey are not the real thing. Are you being swindled?
In 2014, A British Retail Trade Magazine, The Grocer, broke the news that there was more manuka honey sold in Britain that year than was produced in the entire season in New Zealand. The Grocer article mused if British Retailers were deliberately misleading consumers or if they too were being misled. With different systems of testing manuka honey and marketers coming up with their own creative labeling terms it is not surprising that even discerning supermarket buyers are getting duped.
Read the full article here.
Unfortunately the manuka honey industry hasn't made it easy for consumers to understand what they're really buying with so many different grading systems. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can look for if you want to buy the real thing:
The UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) and NPA rating
The UMF (or Unique Manuka Factor) rating is the original rating created by Peter Molan, the Waikato professor who discovered the superior antibacterial properties of Manuka Honey. The UMF rating tests the non-peroxide activity (NPA) of the honey. In other words, the antibacterial component that sets manuka honey apart from other honey.
This test compares the antibacterial performance of the honey to phenol, a disinfectant. The rating is a direct one-to-one comparison to the antiseptic, demonstrating the relative effectiveness of manuka honey for inhibiting bacterial growth. In other words, UMF 5 Manuka honey has the same non-peroxide antibacterial activity as a 5% phenol solution - which is about the strength of an over the counter antiseptic that you might buy at Walgreens or CVS. The higher the UMF number the greater the antibacterial effects.
The UMF trademark is the most established and internationally recgonized of the rating systems which can only be used by licensed association members who meet the auditing and monitoring standards to ensure that the honey is natural, unadulterated is true-to-label claim. All UMF honey has been independently verified in approved laboratories to determine the grade. The UMF Association website lists all of their members here: The UMF association's member page.
The NPA test is referring to the same test as the UMF system. That is, measuring the special non-peroxide activity which is unique to manuka honey. However, NPA labeling is used by brands that don't hold a UMF license and so these brands may or may not hold themselves to the standards of the UMF Association.
The MGO and MG (Methylglyoxal) measure
The MGO rating is another valid way to measure the strength of manuka honey. Methyl glyoxal (or MG for short) was found to be the major antibacterial component in manuka honey by Professor Thomas Henle from the Institute of Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. The MG rating system measures how many milligrams of MG are present in 1 kilo of honey. For example, MG30 contains 30mg of methyl gloxal a kilo of that honey. Once again, the higher the number the higher the level of anti-bacterial activity. The difference in testing between the MG system and the UMF system is the MG meausre is just concerned with methyl gloxal whilst UMF tests for DHA (dihydroxyacetone), Leptosperin and Methyl glyoxal all three which must be present.
The MGO rating system is trademarked and used by Manuka Health. The MGO rating system is the same as MG. Due to MGO being a registered trademark for a single company, MG is often used as a replacement to represent the same classification system in manuka by brands other than the trademark holder.
TPA, PA, TA and Active
Until relatively recently, Total-Peroxide Activity (TPA), Peroxide Activity (PA), Total Activity (TA) and 'Active' were rating terms also used by several brands. Total Activity ratings are based on calculations that included both the peroxide activity (found in most raw honey) as well as the special non-peroxide activity (NPA) found only in manuka honeys. For this reason, a TA or Active number will appear high compared to a UMF rating which only measures the NPA levels. New manuka honey labeling legislation in New Zealand has banned the use of these terms in an attempt to make it easier for consumers to identify genuine New Zealand manuka honey, see the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industry Labelling Requirements Here.
So now that you know to look for UMF or MG certified manuka honey - how do you compare these two scales? Within both rating systems the higher the number the greater activity - however comparing a UMF rating to an MG rating is tricky since the two systems are measuring different things. The UMF scale measuring NPA in comparison to phenol and the MG scale measuring methylgloxal - and these two numbers don't match up very well. UMF 5 contains 83 mg/kg of methylgloyoxal (ie, UMF 5 is equivalent to an MG 83 rating - but the closest MG label is MG 100 which is UMF 5.6); and UMF 10 contains 263 mg/kg of methylgloxal (ie, UMF 10 is equivalent to an MG 263 rating - but the closest MG label is 250 which is UMF 9.7). See what I mean by tricky?!? I hope this table helps you compare the two scales!
Want to buy authentic UMF honey? The best place to shop for UMF certified manuka honey is here.
Read about the benefits of manuka honey here.
The content of this blog is for general information purposes only and does not constitute, nor does it intend to constitute medical diagnosis or treatment or other professional advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regime.
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