Concerns have been raised in the press around the authenticity and purity of Manuka honey being sold in UK retailers. That’s why we leaped at the chance recently to test our Manuka honey with leading UK scientific lab Fera.
Authentic Manuka honey comes from New Zealand. It’s made by hardworking honeybees that are foraging in areas where there’s a high concentration of native Manuka trees. Its unique antimicrobial activity has seen it sought after as a health supplement and in medical uses like wound dressings. And its demand has seen a few cowboys try to cash in over recent years.
Labelling of Manuka honey can be downright confusing, with different grading systems being used and lots of claims made that are hazy to say the least. We’re all for clarity, and giving each one of our honey lovers confidence that you’re buying top notch, high rated Manuka honey. So we decided to put our money where your mouth is.
Here’s where Fera comes in. Based in York, Fera is constantly innovating in its analysis and testing services for global food and agriculture clients. When we heard Fera had developed a test for the authenticity and potency of Manuka honey, we volunteered three samples of The True Honey Co. Manuka honey. These had been packed and sealed in New Zealand and were waiting in our UK warehouse ready for shipping to local honey lovers.
Mark and his clever, white-coated colleagues took our three samples, and – rather than eating them – subjected them to Fera’s own rigorous honey authenticity test for the following chemical compounds:
Methylglyoxal (MGO) is a chemical that’s naturally present in Manuka honey. The concentration of MGO is closely related to non-peroxide activity (NPA) – unique to Manuka honey. (Concentrations of MGO in our samples were all measured at between 141 and 243 mg/kg above the levels named on the labels.)
Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a chemical in the Manuka flower nectar, which converts to MGO during honey production. According to the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries guidelines for Manuka honey, both DHA and MGO should be present in New Zealand Manuka honey.
Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) levels indicate honey that has been subjected to under excessive heat. HMF is particularly relevant to Manuka honey as the conversion of DHA to MGO speeds up under high temperature.
Leptosperin is stable over time, so measuring its concentration in honey is a good way to know whether the honey comes from Manuka nectar.
Here’s what Fera analyst Mark Harrison noted about our top-notch stuff. “The resulting concentration of these marker compounds was found to significantly exceed the minimum requirements issued by the New Zealand government. The samples also contained high levels of leptosperin, found in authentic Manuka honey according to our latest research. Further analysis of the HMF concentrations show that the samples had not been subjected to any heat abuse and conformed to the codex quality standard for in honey.”
Our samples were from jars labelled 300+ MGO, 700+ MGO and 1000+ MGO. And it appears that each one passed with flying colours, particularly when it came to that magical MGO. Says Mark, “The samples were labelled with a stated minimum MGO concentration. The concentrations of MGO measured in the samples being analysed were all measured at between 141 and 243 mg/kg above the stated levels. Therefore, I can conclude that each sample tested conformed to the MGO level which is stated on the label.”
“The concentration of the marker compound MGO in The True Honey Co. 1000+ MGO product is graded at the highest level that we would expect to see in genuine Manuka honey, according to the industry standard.”
Mark Harrison, Analytical Chemist, Authenticity and Profiling, Fera