The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMF HA), which is the association that runs the UMF manuka honey trademark label, has recently published more details about its research work on identifying a chemical profile of manuka honey to further enhance its testing and grading procedures and give consumers greater assurance about the purity of UMF labelled manuka honey.
Why is this so important?
Fans of manuka honey will no doubt be aware that a jar of the yummy stuff with a strong antibacterial property is in a league of its own in terms of honey, but also in terms of the price. As more and more people are prepared to pay high prices for manuka honey, concerns have been raised about the selling of fake manuka honey and the labelling of honey.
This situation has arisen from a lack of agreement within the industry on what ‘genuine manuka honey’ actually is, and has led to the plethora of acronyms, testing methods, packaging and trademarks, not to mention some unscrupulous merchants who have attempted to cash in on the unique properties of manuka honey.
Chemical profiling and new labelling guidelines
The New Zealand government has initiated a process in consultation with the industry on new labelling guidelines as a means to help protect consumers and foster some kind of standardization within the manuka honey industry. These interim guidelines ban the use of therapeutic health claims about the honey on labelling and demand greater clarity about grading systems and how to interpret them.
Research within the industry is focusing on testing the chemical makeup of manuka honey to determine a chemical profile, with the aim of providing complete assurance as to the purity of the honey.
While the UMF trademark scheme does not represent all producers of high quality manuka honey, it has been at the forefront for many years in researching, testing and setting quality benchmarks that give consumers confidence that a jar of manuka honey with the UMF label is a product that has been subjected to comprehensive testing.
Leptosperin – a new marker
Aficionados of manuka honey can expect to hear lots more in the future about something called Leptosperin, which is a new chemical marker for manuka honey, the importance of which was identified by a Japanese researcher called Professor Yoji Kato. The UMF Honey Association has entered into an exclusive agreement with a Japanese company to acquire sole rights to the patent that ‘protects the application of Leptosperin to identify manuka honey’.
What is it and what does it do?
The reason for the interest in using Leptosperin as a chemical marker is because it is only found in a single plant – the manuka tree, so if it is present in the honey it then proves that the manuka flower is the source of the honey. Another fact in its favour as a chemical marker is that it is difficult to manufacture so is unlikely to be used by counterfeiters who try and adulterate honey.