MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) is re-jigging the definition of manuka honey.
Word on the street is that there will be a 'discussion document' released in April 2017, and the final documentation will become law in June or July 2017.
Here's the official link MPI Honey Review.
But that doesn't tell us much.
The manuka honey problem
The problem that MPI are trying to solve is how do you tell manuka honey from other honey, what is just 'nearly manuka' rather than full blown manuka, and how do you detect (and stop) honey fraud. Oh, that's 3 problems. There's probably a few other permutations too. So you see the problem.
This is A HARD problem.
And...they need a test, or tests, that are easy to do anywhere. So if you have some honey land at say Fortnam and Masons, they might want to verify that it is the real deal.
Add to that, there have been several different versions of measuring manuka-ness of honey.
Current ways to grade manuka honey
There are several factors that are measured with manuka honey:
MGO is methyl glyoxal, which is a long lasting antibacterial enzyme, that's not known to occur in any other honey in the world.
All honeys contain hydrogen peroxide, which gives them antibiotic properties, but MGO gives manuka honey antibacterial properties as well.
What's the difference in antibacterial and antibiotic? Google reveals this"
"Antibiotics are a broader range of antimicrobial compounds which can act on fungi, bacteria, and other compounds. Although antibacterials come under antibiotics, antibacterials can kill only bacteria."
UMF is Unique Manuka Factor. Overseen by the UMF Honey Association www.umf.org.nz. UMF factor is a measure of leptosperin, DHA and MGO.
(don't you love all these 3 letter words?)
DHA is dihydroxyacetone. Which is present in the nectar of manuka flowers. Manuka honey starts out with high DHA and low MGO. Over time DHA in the honey interacts with various naturally-occurring proteins and amino acids and creates MGO. So manuka honey matures, and reaches peak maturity at about 18 months age.
4. Molan Gold Standard
Named after the pioneer of manuka honey research, Professor Peter Molan MBE, this internationally recognized standard certifies authentic manuka honey. Check out www.mgs.org.nz.
6. Medical grade manuka honey
Medical grade manuka honey is used topically to treat wounds and ulcers, in medical situations.
To be medical grade honey, it seems (although I can't find the 'bible' on this, and I have looked heartily) it needs to be (I think) UMF 9.5+, microbe level < 500 somethings, and moisture < 20. Plus a range of tests for contaminants - these need to be below the relevant thresholds, so hygiene and straining for impurities and such comes into play. Might be other things as well.
Why the confusion?
None of these tests quite covers the fraud issue.
How exactly do you tell that manuka honey is the real deal, and not just normal honey with a few chemicals added, to mimic some of these tests?
One way is to look for leptospermum pollen markers. Another might be DNA tests. Who knows? The scientists do, I guess, I'm just making stabs in the dark here, based on the local industry gossip.
We'll find out soon enough.
What is it going to mean for beekeepers?
The street story is that the new regulations will mean that anything labelled 'manuka honey' will need to be 10+. 10+ what is the question of course.
But, say equivalent to 10+ UMF, or NPA - now that is a pretty high standard.
So what does this mean to the ordinary beekeeper (OK, I know none of you are 'ordinary').
Well, maybe it means that a lot of so-called manuka honey that is being produced now, is going to fail. And only the beeks with large manuka holdings, or access to large manuka holdings, will benefit from the manuka honey craze. And those beeks are likely to be the bigger guys and gals.
So if you are making 'only-just' manuka honey, what is your strategy going to be?
And just in case one of your strategies is 'Plant More Manuka', check out the resources available for growing and planting manuka - Free How-to for seeds, E-courses for everything to do with establishing a manuka forest.