Because of its scarcity and mind-blowing health benefits, manuka honey is one of the most counterfeited high-value products in the market today. In fact, it is believed that New Zealand only produces one-tenth of the available manuka honey on the market.
A Revamp of MPI Guidelines
The New Zealand Government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has recognized that the current quality guidelines on identifying authentic New Zealand manuka honey are ineffective. There are too many loopholes that have resulted in counterfeit manuka honey being made available globally.
MPI is now leading a science program that will develop a vigorous science-based definition of the New Zealand manuka honey to ensure fake or counterfeit manuka honey will be a thing of the past.
As of February 2017, the said program has already reached the following milestones:
- The development of criteria as well as test methods that will identify the New Zealand manuka honey by using both DNA from the manuka pollen and chemicals naturally found in the honey.
- MPI has shared its findings with independent laboratories to confirm that such findings can be replicated accurately and reliably.
- A consultation with the sector will be done to finalize changes in the manuka honey industry
Checking the Authenticity of New Zealand Manuka Honey
There are several tests that can be done to ensure that the New Zealand manuka honey you bought is genuine. Among these are:
1. The light test
Dr. Jonathan Stephens, who has spent over 15 years studying the Leptospermum scoparium (otherwise known as the manuka tree) and other varieties of honey, has found that the nectar from the manuka tree is fluorescent. Only the manuka and the kanuka trees share the same fluorescent characteristics.
A device called a fluorometer can be used to check the authenticity of New Zealand or PURAO manuka honey.
2. Look for MGO certified manuka honey
MGO refers to the level of ‘methylglyoxal’, a naturally occurring compound which gives manuka honey its antibacterial properties. The higher the MGO grade, the higher the anti-bacterial effect of PURAO manuka honey.
DHA and Leptosperin are two other key compounds that make New Zealand or PURAO manuka honey authentic.
Leptosperin is a stable but complex compound unique only to the manuka plant. Its complexity makes it virtually impossible to manufacture so it is only present in genuine manuka honey.
DHA, on the other hand, is present in the nectar of the manuka flowers but to varying degrees. DHA would later on mature to form methylglyoxal. A 2009 study shows that freshly produced manuka honey contain low levels of methylglyoxal and high levels of DHA. New Zealand honey aged and stored at 37 degrees Celcuis leads to a decrease in DHA and an increase in methylglyoxal.
The DHA concentration of freshly produced manuka honey can be used to determine the honey’s MGO grade later on.
All three key compounds must be present to confirm that New Zealand or PURAO manuka honey is authentic.
3. Tracing to Source
The Leptospermum scoparium grows only in New Zealand and Australia. It’s called manuka tree in New Zealand and tea tree in Australia.
Authentic manuka honey can only be harvested, packed and tested in New Zealand.
4. The practical, non-scientific approach
If you are a consumer who has been dealing with organic products for so long, you’ll already know where to go and who to ask to confirm the authenticity of a certain brand. You have your trusted online go-to forum, conferences, blogs and review websites. Offline, you can ask your family and friends. You can also go the extra mile and contact the experts directly.
For safe and trusted manuka honey, make sure that it is created and packed in New Zealand, just like PURAO manuka honey. It is independently tested, certified and packed to ensure you get authenticity from source to your home.