UMFHA tells fake manuka honey to buzz off

By Emma Jane Cash

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/bhofack
© iStock/bhofack

Related tags: Chromatography

The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) has developed a system that uses compounds to validate manuka honey as genuine, after a rise in fake manuka honey was sold in UK markets.

A new method of authenticating manuka honey using signature compounds has been discovered by UMFHA and Fera Science UK, as they move to eliminate the spread of fake honey being sold.

Adrian Charlton, Fera Science biochemist and head of the food quality and safety programme told FoodNavigator that this new method was more reliable than previous ones.

“Leptosperin is unique to the nectar of the manuka bush and can only be found in manuka honey. Leptosperin is a very stable molecule but is not easy to make and add to honey. Dihydroxacetone (DHA) and Methlyglyoxal (MGO) have been used for a long time as indicators of manuka honey authenticity but these are not good markers on their own as they can easily be added to the honey but are not stable over time.”

Using these compounds, manuka honey can then be graded by UMFHA. The process, using Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC), can take up to two weeks but can be carried out in as little as three days.

Fera offer the honey validation service for €235 (£200).

Why manuka?

The manuka bush is native to New Zealand and pollen from the bush gives manuka honey its unique properties.

Its antibacterial property results in a higher price tag compared to regular honey.

“Manuka honey is a premium product and it’s important that consumers know that they are getting what they are paying for otherwise they could be being misled into buying cheaper honey at a higher price,” ​Charlton said.

However this does not deter consumers, in the UK for example, from consuming 20.3 million kilograms (kg) of manuka honey per year, according to Fera.

The honey has been included in skin care products, pet care products and antiseptic creams, as well as being used as a sweetener or spread.

Fera are also finishing work on a screening test for manuka honey that can be used quickly in shops, as well as a range of other food testing methods not limited to honey.

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