Consumers Urge for Higher Standards

The current grading system used in the production of Manuka honey makes it very difficult for consumers to determine how much authentic Manuka honey is in the products they are purchasing. Furthermore, and possibly more alarming, is that the current grading system is relatively simple for scammers to copy – some honey products are being falsely labeled as graded Manuka honey when they are not, leaving even more doubt in consumers’ minds about whether or not their products are real.

In an article posted on NZHerald.co.nz, the chief executive of Manuka Health, Kerry Paul, was quoted as saying that it is understood that all Manuka honey is a blend of one kind or another, and that the true issues arise when cases of fake Manuka honey are labeled as authentic and rated. The consumer simply does not know if they are buying a genuine product or not. Paul goes on to explain that some of the Manuka honey grading systems, including UMF or Unique Manuka Factor, are confusing and unclear.

Due to these challenges, Manuka Health has chosen to grade honey according to the amount of methylglyoxal present instead of using the standard UMF system. “It’s important that people are open and transparent about what they are selling and the problem with the other system is that it is not clear to the consumer,” stated Paul. An inside source into the Wairarapa honey industry stated that “blending” generic or bush honey with Manuka honey is an all too real problem for the industry .

“It’s happening nationwide. We are getting people buying up large amounts of bush blends that they can put into some existing Manuka and then they are selling it as a Manuka 5 plus,” explained the source. The reality is that honeys labeled as true Manuka honey should be graded as a 10 or more and contain a methylglyoxal level of 300mg/kg. “When we tried to push for it we were told by some of the big players that they weren’t prepared to accept that as it wasn’t commercially viable,” the insider source stated.

At this time, an interim labeling program has been put into place and big players in the beekeeping industry are working with the Ministry for Primary Industries to develop a two-year program that would help to define the criteria needed for monofloral Manuka. John Hartnell, chairperson of the Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group, believes that the methylglyoxal grading system will become part of the final grading process and that it is crucial the guidelines for grading Manuka honey be tightened up.

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