02/03/2023 – Health / Manuka Honey / Authenticity / Quality / UK / UMFHA
Tests reveal all major non-NZ ‘manuka honey’ brands sold in UK are not authentic
New scientific testing of the majority of non-New Zealand manuka honey brands sold in the UK has identified that 100 per cent of the brands tested are not genuine manuka and miss the key regulatory manuka honey identification indicators.
That’s the verdict of the compelling findings from the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) – the world's only independent, certified, quality system for manuka honey.
Real manuka honey comes exclusively from the Leptospermum scoparium or manuka tree, which is native to New Zealand. It is the only tree that produces nectar of the right composition to convert to manuka honey with demonstrated health and wellness properties. However, there are an increasing number of honey companies from countries outside New Zealand misleadingly claiming their product is manuka, while lacking the requisite Leptospermum scoparium (manuka) DNA and correct composition of key chemicals that classify honey as mānuka1, as well as having profiles of honey from other plants.
Missing the manuka mark
In an effort to inform the public, the UMFHA used a certified independent laboratory to test the majority of manuka brands originating from outside New Zealand and sold in the UK and USA. All were popular products sold by major online retailers and labelled as manuka honey.
The results found that every one of these products failed to meet New Zealand regulatory criteria for authentic manuka honey. Samples taken from other international markets were also found to miss the authenticity test. Of the non-New Zealand brands tested:
• 100 per cent failed the test, and were classified as non-manuka honey, meaning they did not come from the tree and nectar associated with supporting good health;
• All also failed when it came to key MPI1 markers – e.g., 2-MAP;
• 82 per cent failed the CODEX quality requirement of <40mg/kg HMF;
• 60 per cent failed 4-HPLA tests;
• 80 per cent had no detectable leptospermum scoparium DNA;
• 32 per cent failed the potency label claim (MGO typically decreases during the product shelf life).
“The gold standard” in honey
The manuka tree has been part of indigenous Māori medicine for a millennia. In the last 40 years, research into the honey from the manuka tree has exploded, and over 500 studies now highlight its variety of known and emerging natural health benefits, including skin, gut and immune health support stemming from antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
“Manuka honey comes exclusively from New Zealand and is truly the gold standard against which other honeys are compared,” said John Rawcliffe, CEO of the UMFHA. “At UMFHA, we want to give consumers the confidence that when they see a honey product with the UMF™ quality mark and rating, they know they are getting the goodness and health support of genuine New Zealand manuka honey, produced, packed and sealed for purity at its origin in New Zealand.”
To assure consumers that the product they are buying is authentic, UMFHA implemented the UMF™ quality certification and rating system, derived from their Four Factor Quality Assurance Test3. The UMF quality mark validates authenticity, potency, shelf life and freshness. Among the factors assessed by the UMF quality standard are Leptosperin (authenticity), MGO (potency), Dihydroxyacetone/DHA (a precursor to MGO, which determines shelf life) and Hydroxymethylfurfural/HMF (freshness, which shows if the honey has been overheated or aged too long). In addition to the UMF™ quality mark, the honey must also have ‘Product of New Zealand’ on its label to ensure it was packed and sealed in New Zealand, free from additives.
Increased consumer focus on health
With the cold and flu season in full swing, consumers are putting an increased focus on natural health products, like manuka, to help keep them healthy and alleviate symptoms. One study conducted with UK and USA consumers found that 91 per cent of Brits surveyed noted the importance of natural health products to them, with the product originating from a trusted brand (53 per cent) being the most important factor in their purchasing decisions, featuring ahead of price (26 per cent).
While real manuka honey delivers the natural health benefits consumers are seeking, consumer awareness continues to be the biggest roadblock that the UMFHA faces in its mission to educate the public on how to identify genuine, quality manuka honey. While 58 per cent of British consumers surveyed specifically buy manuka honey for its natural health benefits, with 95 per cent associating manuka honey with having health benefits; they also largely take their purchases at face value, with over three-quarters (76 per cent) of consumers believing the products they purchase from a reputable retailer are as advertised and 100-per-cent legitimate. The incorrectly labelled products of non-New Zealand manuka honey are therefore misleading consumers who are purchasing the products for their intended health benefits, but not receiving them, the organisation claims. “This makes consumer awareness of this issue, and the importance of the UMF™ certification, even more vital,” it asserts.
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