Manuka Honey

C4 Sugar in Manuka Honey

C4 Sugar in Manuka Honey

There's been a few problems this year with high C4 sugar readings in manuka honey in the whole industry.

Honey that is exported has to pass a whole raft of tests, including normal food-type tests - does it contain poisons such as tutin, does it contain bacteria, does it contain impurities - plus some special honey tests. And testing for adulteration with sugar is one.

Manuka Honey Fraud

Manuka Honey Fraud

What is manuka honey fraud? Is there fraud that is technically legal? How do we stop manuka honey fraud?

I think the answers are 'complicated', yes, and 'that is the million dollar question that MPI is trying to fix' - see last week's post on the New manuka honey regulations.

To me, simplistically, manuka honey fraud is when honey sellers, either in NZ, or (I would guess more likely) overseas, take honey that is only slightly manuka and try to pass it off as good grade manuka.

There are several ways this might happen:

Australian Manuka Honey - is that OK?

Australian Manuka Honey - is that OK?

New Zealand is not the only country that grows manuka. Australia does too.

And in fact Australia has far more varieties of leptospermum than NZ. We have one, leptospermum scoparium, but Australia has 83 types. 83! That's a lot!

And, what's more, Australia 'manuka' honey is antibacterial too. Just as good, maybe better, depending on who you talk to (um, that would be a NZer or an Australian).

Check out this report

The medicinal benefits of honey

The medicinal benefits of honey

10 ways honey works medically

Here's a fun fact I have just read: That the root of the word medicine is medu which also means mead, that lovely honey drink. Not sure quite how true that is, I can't follow the links far enough back on the interwebs, but wouldn't that be a cool connection?

Because, the thing is, honey is an amazing medicine, and has been for millennia. Manuka honey is particularly special, but manuka honey has only been around for a century and a half. Other honey has lots of medicinal benefits too.

What is medical grade manuka honey?

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:

1. MGO

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."

2. UMF

UMF is Unique Manuka Factor. Overseen by the UMF Honey Association UMF factor is a measure of leptosperin, DHA and MGO.

3. DHA

(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

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.