Manuka Honey’s problem of proof

While the upcoming ‘This is Manuka Honey’ presentation is set to be exciting and progressive for the Manuka Honey industry, it is also necessary.  Necessary because up until now there has been no fundamentally reliable testing system to confirm when honey is Manuka Honey.  The Manuka ID Project provides science that answers the problem of proof.

Differing methods in defining Manuka Honey have created confusion.  The research that will be unveiled at August 9th’s presentation is there to provide an answer to the need to put aside unreliable testing systems and establish a firm, right, accurate definition of Manuka Honey.

Four years ago the UMF Honey Association began the Manuka ID Project, with the objective being to provide better clarity and assurance to consumers.  James Jeffery from Summer Glow Apiaries says, “Manuka is rated and classified in so many different ways, with none of these common techniques providing ultimate assurance in the product’s authenticity. The classification system resulting from the Manuka ID Project can provide that assurance.”

As an example, take three of the principle test methods that are carried out by various Manuka Honey providers; sensory testing, MG content and pollen count.  All of these claim to identify Manuka Honey, but all of them at their core are unreliable testing methods. 

  • Sensory testing is simple, with Manuka Honey being identified based on colour, taste and smell of the honey.  Simple, straightforward, but flawed in that it is subjective, and reliant on accurate detection from a producer’s nose, eyes and taste buds. 
  • In recent years the presence of Methylglyoxal has been one of the major contributing factors to defining Manuka Honey.  However, Methylglyoxal levels vary in honey over its lifespan and can fluctuate when the honey is stored at different temperatures.  Not to mention the possibility of adulterating non-Manuka Honey with synthetic Methylglyoxal. 
  • The problem of pollen testing is that of distinguishability.  “With pollen, there’s no way of guaranteeing that the pollen that’s being counted is not Kanuka pollen, because Kanuka and Manuka are difficult to differentiate between under a microscope,” James says.  “The honey is analysed under a microscope and examined.  A trained person counts the shape and texture of the pollen granules – which is not difficult to do – the difficult part is distinguishing between Kanuka and Manuka pollen; you just can’t tell them apart.”   Even a small sample of Manuka honey mixed in with a larger volume of low-pollen honey such as Rewarewa will reveal the dominant pollen to be Manuka; giving the impression that because of its high Manuka pollen count the honey itself is Manuka Honey.

On the other hand testing has shown that the presence of key markers such as Leptosperin are accurate measures that can be used to identify Manuka Honey.  Summer Glow Manuka Honey has a very high level of Leptosperin, the compound that is unique to Manuka Honey.

The Manuka ID Project provides an answer to questions asked by international regulators.  What was asked for and has been delivered as a result of the Manuka ID Project, is the single most solid foundation ever seen for defining and authenticating Manuka Honey.  For Summer Glow Apiaries the Manuka ID Project is the solution to the problem of proof that has long been waited for.