On Sunday 25th August 2013 The Sunday Times published a very interesting article about manuka honey. Did you know that statistics show that we actually bought significantly more manuka honey than it was in fact harvested? Around 1,700 tons of manuka honey is produced every year and UK consumers alone bought 1,800 tons of it, this number worldwide reaches 10,000 tons.
So how is it possible?
The answer is quite simple – mislabelling of other types of honey and passing it off as manuka honey.
This doesn’t sound very honest but like with all things… where additional money can be made by exploiting a loophole; people will find a way to make it, even if this means cheating and defrauding others.
What is Manuka Honey?
Simply put it is honey that comes from bees visiting the flowers of the manuka plant (or tree), a native species of New Zealand AND NO OTHER flower. Some of this honey (important to note it is not all the same, hence the importance of UMF unique manuka factor mark) has been found to contain extra antibacterial properties, over and above the benefits from other honeys. It is a natural product (and hence the natural variation) that actually has some modern science and research supporting it.
What’s so special about Manuka Honey?
Manuka Honey is a unique honey that is native to New Zealand.
As a natural remedy, Manuka honey is one that actually has some proper academic research to support it. If referring to the correct grade of honey that is.
There are plenty of anecdotal evidence and success stories on its usage. Helping with digestive disorders, peptic ulcers, wound treatment, and leg ulcers are some of its regular uses.
Manuka honey can work and can aid you in several areas, but bear in mind it is not a magic cure for everything.
So what is it that makes some manuka honey special? All honeys have a level of hydrogen peroxide, which provides some level of activity from the actions of the enzyme glucose oxidase that is also found in honey. But this can be adversely affected by other enzymes found in wound fluids and body tissue. It is also not stable, and reduces over time.
However, some manuka honey (and only some) also contains a non-peroxide antibacterial property, what has been named the ‘unique manuka factor’ (UMF). It is the UMF that creates the special properties, including the extra antibacterial and antibiotic properties, that is found in only some manuka honey, as the UMF is not affected by the other enzymes, and is much more stable and active in a variety of conditions. To find the existence of UMF in manuka honey, it needs to be tested for its level of non-peroxide antibacterial activity. This test should be done by an independent laboratory for each batch of honey.
How to make sure you get what you are paying for?
Look for the UMF mark on the jar; this mark acts as a total quality standard for consumers.
To carry the UMF brand, the manufacturer or owner of the brand must hold a current UMF license with UMFHA (Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association). In addition, genuine UMF Manuka Honey complies with all five of the following criteria:
- UMF is clearly stated on the front label.
- It is packed into jars and labelled in New Zealand.
- It is from a New Zealand company licensed by UMFHA to use the name UMF.
- It has the UMF licensee’s name on the front label.
- It has a rating of UMF 5+ or more.
Don’t get tempted by low price and other advertised gimmicks like “active” as this word is not under control and everyone can put it on. But if you really want to be sure that you are getting a real deal the only advice which comes to mind is to buy from reputable source like The New Zealand Honey Shop.
We can check the labels in our everyday supermarket in search of an “authentic” manuka honey but as we now know these labels cannot be trusted. If you are really going to spend £45 for 500g of manuka honey, there is no better way to be sure like getting it from the source.
Funny thing is that manuka honey is everywhere. I just did a google search for it and I can get it from my local supermarket for £8.99 per 250g – advertised as 100% pure Active Manuka Honey or from “reputable” UK health web shop – £15.67 for 500g jar labelled as Active 12+ Manuka Honey.
If you aren’t sure if your manuka honey is a real deal check the UMF honey association. A few names which can be trusted are for example Comvita, Commell’s Honey Limited or Natural Solution East Cape.
Do you use Manuka Honey?
- Manuka Honey Fraud: Action should have been Taken Earlier, says Association – TopNews New Zealand (manukahoneycosmetics.wordpress.com)
- Manuka honey in focus – Waikato Times (manukahoneycosmetics.wordpress.com)
- Mystifying Manuka ratings? (happyvalleynz.wordpress.com)
- Guidelines needed for manuka honey labels (nzherald.co.nz)
- Honey industry leaders define what manuka honey is (radionz.co.nz)
- Industry knew of manuka ‘fake’ risks (stuff.co.nz)