Like many expensive products Manuka Honey is sometimes subject to copies and food fraud.
Some dishonest companies have been caught either diluting their Manuka Honey with cheaper honey after it’s left New Zealand, or artificially adding chemicals to make their Manuka appear stronger than it once was.
There are no reliable figures on exactly how much honey falsely labelled as Manuka is sold but estimates based on New Zealand export figures suggest up to half of all honey sold as "Mānuka" around the world may not contain what it claims on the label.
So how can you be sure you’re getting the real deal?
Follow this checklist when you buy Manuka Honey to make sure you’re getting the real, valuable product and not a poor-quality imitation:
1. Does it meet the New Zealand Government tests?
New Zealand rules mean every batch of Manuka honey leaving the country must be tested in an independent laboratory to meet four chemical markers and a DNA test which are unique to Manuka honey. In New Zealand this is called this the Ministry of Primary Industries, or MPI standard.
If any company’s Manuka honey doesn’t contain meet the MPI standard, it can’t legally be exported and labelled as “Manuka Honey”. So it is by definition “fake” manuka.
At Manuka Doctor, all our honey exceeds these testing requirements and is in fact checked 5 times before sale.
Our rigorous testing takes place both in New Zealand (where the product is produced and packed) and in the UK (before the product is sold) always at independent labs. We do this to give you maximum confidence that the honey in the jar is true, genuine New Zealand Manuka.
2. Yes, but was it packed in New Zealand?
One way of making sure your Manuka Honey hasn’t been tampered with before it gets to the shelf in the UK is to only buy honey marked “packed in New Zealand”. This means it has been sealed into a jar before leaving New Zealand, keeping it safe from adulteration.
Manuka Honey is most at risk of being diluted with cheaper honeys, sugar syrup or even added chemicals, when drums of genuine, certified New Zealand Manuka Honey get processed by third parties overseas. You can avoid this by looking for the “packed in New Zealand” promise or checking with your retailer that the Manuka isn’t blended down in the UK and diluted before being packed.
All Manuka Doctor products are harvested in New Zealand before being packed into finished jars at our facility in Hamilton, in the country’s North Island.
3. What is its MGO rating – and do you need a UMF rating as well?
Manuka Honey contains a natural compound called methylglyoxal – or MGO for short – which has anti-microbial properties.
The MGO rating number shows the amount of Methylglyoxal in the honey, which is a sign of how active or strong these properties are. There are other systems of measuring Manuka honey strength, which can be confusing, but the general rule is that the bigger the number, the higher the strength.
Another rating system is the UMF scheme, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. One of the compounds you need to measure in order to obtain a UMF rating is the amount of MGO in the honey.
This handy table shows the equivalent MGO and UMF comparisons.
All Manuka Doctor honey is tested 5 times between the beekeeper colleting from the hive, and you buying your jar. The MGO level is a vital part of this testing, which is why we use independent labs to ensure the strength on the label is accurate.
4. Does it have the “Hive to Home” promise?
Reputable honey sellers can trace any jar of honey back to the beekeeper who harvested it because they keep detailed records about every batch they sell.
When buying Manuka Honey from a supermarket or health food store, check that the packaging promises traceability using words like our “Hive to Home” promise – if it doesn’t, you can’t be confident it’s come from a hive of real New Zealand Manuka Honey.
All Manuka Doctor honey can be tracked right back to the hive site where it was created, with a large paperwork trail proving the different steps and testing each batch of honey has been through.
You can read more about our Hive to Home promise here.