How do you grade honey?
After quite a deep search on the interwebs, I would have to say, the answer is not readily forthcoming.
There seems to be 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
5. 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?
Well, it turns out that honey is just honey, and has been for millennia. It's only now that scientists are thinking about quantifying and measuring these things. MPI, our government department that likes to control these things, has only just established an interim guide for labeling manuka honey, in 2014 (yesterday, right?). And they are involved in a study of how to define monofloral manuka honey, due to be released late 2016. So it is all new new science. Check them out here MPI
How to learn stuff
We're going to the Apiculture NZ
annual conference this weekend. And it looks like the speaker programme is heavily loaded with some of the scientists involved in all this research. Which I am tremendously looking forward to. Isn't it so great to be at the beginning of interesting science?
Honey is, of course, still honey. And the old timers know how great it is, and have been self treating with all sorts of bee products all this time. It's just the rest of us that need to catch up.