A manuka honey supplier has called for improved standards after it was revealed some brands were not true to label.
Comvita was one of the products that was true to label with its UMF 10+ and CEO, Brett Hewlett, said: “The majority of New Zealand consumer exporters, including Comvita, belong to the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA), however there are still parts of the industry working outside of this standard or using other number systems, and that leads to confusion amongst consumers and regulators. Use of the UMF trademark is open to all New Zealand based marketers, if they meet the standard, so if the companies are not licensees, consumers should wonder why.”
He pointed towards the ‘Active’ description often seen on brands as contributing to the problem.
“Calling it ‘Active’ does not inform the consumer about the type of honey or its respective benefits. For example, it is possible to purchase brown honey, pack it in a jar, put an ‘Active’ label on it and pass it off as manuka honey,” Hewlett said. “The UMF versus ‘Active’ issue is one we have long believed undermines the significant latent value that still resides in this industry and Comvita has been actively working with UMFHA to resolve this issue.”
Comvita Chief Technical Officer, Dr Ralf Schlothauer, added: “Although all honey contains peroxide activity, only authentic manuka honey contains non-peroxide activity, aka the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). The UMF standard is based on the phytochemicals specific to manuka honey that gives manuka its unique properties. If it doesn’t comply with this UMF standard, it is not manuka honey.”
Manuka Health, which uses the MGO certification to indicate strength based on the compound, methylglyoxal, has also commented in response to comments made by New Zealand Food Safety Minister, Nikki Kaye, that part of the manuka honey labeling difficulty was that “there aren’t any clear scientific markers”. She was speaking in light of the FERA results.
Manuka Health’s Chief Executive, Kerry Paul, challenged her claims, saying that scientists in New Zealand and Germany agree the key non-peroxide compound – methylglyoxal – responsible for the antibacterial activity of manuka honey, can be measured and quantified.
“This is not supported by scientists who work in this field. Manuka Health has led the way in developing a robust scientific method to quantify the actual amount of methylglyoxal in our manuka honey products,” Paul said. “Our labeling system, based on methylglyoxal levels, provides consumers with a reliable way of buying genuine manuka honey with the activity for which it is famous around the world.”
Paul says consumers should check the methylglyoxal content on the product label to be confident they are buying manuka honey with the correct activity.
“Manuka Health takes a rigorous approach to managing supply from our Wairarapa bee-keeping operation to the shelf, to guarantee the quality of the finished product,” he added.