The labelling of Manuka Honey can be very confusing. This article briefly explains why you should always look for the registered UMF trademark.
Manuka Honey is almost entirely produced in New Zealand but did you realise how much variety there is?
Different parts of the island produce different grades and strengths of Manuka Honey and this varies from season to season. Nectar from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum Scoparium) is responsible for Manuka Honey’s unique qualities but, there are several different varieties of Manuka bush, each produces Manuka Honey with different levels of anti bacterial activity.
Honey bees will take nectar from all sorts of places. They don’t just stick to one type of plant. Some honeys labelled as Manuka may have less than 30% Manuka bush nectar.
All Raw Honey has a level of anti bacterial activity but, it can be very rapidly destroyed by heat and light so it can’t be relied on for medical use. Professor Peter Molan is the World’s foremost authority on the anti bacterial activity of honey. He and his team at the University of Waikato have been studying the antibiotic activity of honey since the 1980s and have discovered that Manuka Honey has a unique antibacterial activity over and above normal honey. They named this the UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. The UMF of Manuka Honey is much more stable and remains in Manuka Honey after normal anti bacterial properties have been destroyed.
The Unique Manuka Factor can be relied on for medicinal use but because of the variety of Manuka Honeys the UMF varies from jar to jar. Not all Manuka Honey even has a UMF. Labelling is important but not entirely standardised.
UMF is a registered trademark. Honey producers who are members of the Active Manuka Honey Association of New Zealand have their Manuka Honey tested in independent laboratories and are then allowed to display the UMF trademark on their jars of Active Manuka Honey. If the jar doesn’t carry the UMF trademark it hasn’t been independently tested under the Active Manuka Honey Association’s scheme.
Along with the UMF will come a number. This number specifies the UMF level, of anti bacterial activity, in that particular honey when it was packed (in properly stored Manuka Honey the UMF will increase slightly over time). Many brands of Manuka Honey carry a number but not the UMF trademark. This means that the producer is not regulated by the Active Manuka Honey Association of New Zealand and does not have the legal right to use the UMF trademark.
Manuka Honey with a UMF of less than 10 has a low level of activity and may not be effective for some medical conditions. The ideal potency is between UMF 10 and 18. Some people have experienced sensitivity to Manuka Honey with a UMF above 20.