In 2017 the New Zealand government introduced new standards that honey must meet in order to be certified as authentic New Zealand Mānuka honey. The honey is tested in a government approved laboratory to determine its authenticity and its UMF™ rating.
UMF™ means “Unique Mānuka Factor” and is the term the UMF™ Honey Association uses to describe the unique antibacterial qualities of some Mānuka honey. There are different strengths of UMF™, indicated by the number associated with “UMF™”. Methylglyoxal (“MGO”) is the agent for the non-peroxide activity (“NPA”) that is the antibacterial element of UMF™, which provides the incredible healing properties found in some Mānuka honeys.
It is also the brand of the UMF™ Honey Association (UMFHA”), which is the body originally formed to establish, promote and control the remarkable anti-bacterial qualities of Mānuka honey.
Only about 40% of Mānuka honey as defined by the New Zealand Government has a UMF™ grade above 5. Of that selection, only 20% has a UMF™ grade above 15. The level of UMF™ is determined by the tests of UMFHA.
As well as MGO, other elements of the honey are assessed to ensure that it meets the standards of the UMFHA. These are; Dihydroxyacetone (“DHA”), (which converts to MGO); Leptosperin (UMFHA’s own test which further confirms the honey is Mānuka, and must have a value greater than 100); and Hydroxymethylfurfural (“HMF”), (which must have a value of less than 40, and is an indicator of the age of the honey and its probable shelf life.)
The independent laboratories that conduct the tests report to the UMFHA, which in turn certifies that that the honey can be rated at a particular level. This procedure applies to each batch of Mānuka honey produced by members of the UMFHA, and the batch numbers are recorded on the label on the honey jar and on the UMFHA release certificate. This provides complete traceability for each jar of honey sold.
Beware – some have nothing to do with the healing qualities of UMF
The UMF™ rating system is the most comprehensively established system. Also of credibility is the MGO system, which measures Methylglyoxal only. Some other systems are confusing and have nothing to do with non-peroxide activity (“NPA”), which is a key element of UMF™ and MGO. One such system is the “K Factor” which measures the pollen in honey (which is a source of protein not NPA or MGO) and another is “Total Activity” which measures all the active ingredients in a honey, including hydrogen peroxide, which is a healing element in all honeys, dissipates quite rapidly and has nothing like the healing power of the non-peroxide element of UMF™ rated Mānuka honey.
The NPA of UMF™ rated Mānuka honey is a unique, extremely powerful and long lasting anti-bacterial agent. The numbers associated with “K Factor” and “Total Activity” give no indication of the NPA of the honey, if any at all.
The equivalence of NPA grade and Minimum MGO concentration is below.
NPA provides the base measurement for UMF™; MGO concentration is the measurement used for MGO ratings.
More about UMFHA and its members can be read here: umf.org.nz
Waitemata Honey Company was at the forefront of the development of UMF.
Michael Stuckey, who was the manager of the company at the time, became aware of Manuka’s medicinal properties when the man he originally worked for could only obtain solace from the pain of a stomach ulcer by regular consumption of Manuka honey. The conventional remedies were not helpful. At the same time Michael became aware that Whangarei hospital (further north in New Zealand) was using honey to dress wounds which did not respond to conventional remedies. That could only be Manuka honey as nothing much else flowers up there. He also learned that a food scientist at Waikato University was studying the medicinal qualities of the honey.
The rest is history. Michael and some other members of the New Zealand Beekeepers Association teamed up with the scientist and employed a marketing expert to guide them in commercialising the UMF benefits. Michael was secretary of that development unit for some 5 years, and then with the job done he passed the reigns over to another.
© Waitemata Manuka Honey Direct Ltd