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Why All The Confusion Surrounding Manuka Honey?

September 05, 2022 3 min read

Manuka honey is the most famous, most talked about, most tested and scrutinized honey in the world. More scientific research, medical studies and medical trials have been carried out on Manuka than any other type of honey. 

So why the confusion when buying NZ Manuka honey? 

What is Australian Manuka honey and is it authentic? What do all the acronyms mean and how do they relate to this unique variety of honey? Why are there different grading systems all claiming to offer the consumer quality or premium product? 

In this blog, we will answer some of the most common questions surrounding Manuka honey. 

To simplify it, high-quality Manuka honey can only come from New Zealand. 

The Manuka Bush or Tree is unique and native to New Zealand. Only New Zealand has a legal scientific standard for Manuka honey classification -The Ministry Of Primary industry Manuka honey Science definition.

This defines a basis for scientific testing and passing criteria for both Monofloral and multiflora Manuka honey. Multiflora - by definition - is not pure Manuka honey and must clearly state on the label the words ‘Blend’ or ‘multiflora’ which indicates this honey has been blended with other varieties or the bees have collected pollen from multiple sources other than the Manuka bush.

Only Monofloral Manuka honey produced in New Zealand can carry the UMF quality mark. 

There are multiple grading systems and “quality marks” used around the world to help market different brands of Manuka honey. Many of these have been designed in an attempt to confuse the consumer. 

All you need to know is that there is only one quality mark of international recognition, weight and gravitas - The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) issued by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA). Products carrying this mark are supported by a stringent license agreement, commitment to quality and an independent audit.

Other grading systems have been created simply as a marketing tool.

MGO is short for Methylglyoxal, an active natural chemical found in some Manuka honey and known to be a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-microbial agent. 

MGO (Methylglyoxal) can be present in a multitude of foods such as Cocoa, coffee, tea, root beer, cola, orange juice, non-fat dry milk etc. The list goes on.

MGO has nothing to do with the quality or purity of Manuka honey on its own. 

The MGO number shown on the label is simply a measure of the chemical and the quantity present. 

To be classified as pure Manuka honey in New Zealand the MPI Manuka honey Science Definition must first be passed. Only when the honey passes as either multi or Monofloral can the chemical levels or grading standards apply. 

The UMF quality mark only applies to Monofloral honey and the minimum allowable level of MGO must be 83 and above. 

Products with MGO levels MGO30, MGO50, MGO70 and even some MGO83 are not Manuka honey - they are Manuka blends and multiflora Manuka varieties. 

They do not meet the required standards to carry the UMF quality mark.

UMF grading starts at UMF 5+. UMF 5+ is MGO 83+ and needs to be Monofloral. So don’t be fooled by the “big numbers” of 30, 40, 50 and 70 MGO. These are not even meeting the starting point for genuine Manuka honey. 

If you are buying Manuka honey and definitely want genuine Monofloral then look for the UMF rating. If the UMF logo is not visible then at least check that the MGO level is greater than 83 and the label does not say ‘multiflora’ or ‘blend’

Again we need to be really clear on this point ‘multiflora’ or ‘blend’ Manuka honey are still great high-quality kinds of honey and some of the best honey in the world. We just don’t want you to be misled into thinking the honey you are purchasing is pure Manuka honey. 

To sum it up:

  • Always check the label
  • Read the small print
  • Look for words ‘blend’ or ‘multiflora’
  • Check the numbers

A big number does not always equal great quality. 

Final example:

The world’s most potent Monofloral Manuka honey currently on the market is PURITI UMF31+ and this has an MGO level of MGO1722. 

UMF numbers may not be the biggest but they certainly, definitely mean much more!