5 ways to check your Manuka Honey ISN’T fake

Claire Perry - Manuka Doctor Product Expert

Claire leads our Product Development Team, ensuring that our products are truly natural and effective. With more than 20 years experience in the health and beauty industry, she is one of the industry’s most experienced Manuka Honey Experts.

Your quick check:

  1. Make sure it comes from New Zealand
  2. Make sure it was packed in New Zealand
  3. Make sure the MGO rating is independently tested
  4. Make sure it is certified to the New Zealand government standard
  5. Make sure it has a Hive to Home promise

There are no reliable figures on exactly how much honey falsely labelled as Manuka is sold in the UK every year but estimates based on New Zealand export figures suggest up to half of all honey sold as "Mānuka" may not contain what it claims on the jar.

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 getting ripped off with a poor-quality imitation:

1. Is it from New Zealand?

New Zealand has a ban on importing honey, so if a honey has come from New Zealand, it must have been made there. And all pots of Manuka Honey exported from New Zealand to countries like the UK must meet strict standards to prove it is made from nectar from the Mānuka bush.

The New Zealand government introduced rules in December 2017 which mean every batch of honey must be tested in an independent laboratory and shown to contain four chemical markers and one DNA marker which are unique to the Mānuka bush1.

If the honey doesn’t contain all five markers, it can’t legally be exported and labelled as “Manuka Honey” – so look for the gold “Tested Certified Mānuka” symbol on honey jars which prove it has met the requirements.

Manuka Honey packed in New Zealand

2. 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.

Packed in New Zealand

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.

Manuka Doctor is an established brand with more than 10 years of trading around the world.

As such we are proud to be able to use the “Made in New Zealand” trademark on our jars to show we are a genuine Kiwi brand.

This guarantees that our brand has is truly from the home of Genuine Manuka Honey. The real deal. As nature intended.

3. What is its MGO rating – and where has it been tested?

Manuka Honey contains a natural compound called methylglyoxal – or MGO – which has antibacterial properties2. The MGO rating number shows the amount of MGO in the honey, which is a sign of how active or strong these properties are3. 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.

Manuka Testing

For added confidence when buying in the UK, look for suppliers which test their honey in an independent laboratory both in New Zealand and on arrival in the UK. Jars will state they have been tested or validated “in New Zealand and the UK”.

4. What does it say on the label?

Some honey jars are designed to look like Manuka Honey when they are not the genuine product but by reading the label carefully you can work out whether or not it is the real deal. Don’t be confused by statements that a honey is “100% pure” or “100% New Zealand honey” as this does not guarantee it is a genuine Manuka Honey product. An authentic New Zealand Manuka Honey will always state whether it is “monofloral” or “multifloral” – these are two official definitions of Manuka Honey set by the New Zealand Government. “Monofloral” means the honey has been primarily made from Mānuka nectar, while “multifloral” means it has been made from a mix of Mānuka nectar and other nectars.

Manuka Label

If a honey does not state whether it is “monofloral” or “multifloral” and states it is a “blend” or has been “blended”, it is highly likely it has been mixed with cheaper European or Asian honey and is not a genuine New Zealand Manuka Honey product. Although this is legal, so long as the blend is declared on the label, it means the honey could contain very little MGO - the natural compound which gives Manuka Honey its special properties.

5. 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 records of exactly which drums of honey go into every batch they sell. When buying Manuka Honey, check that the packaging promises traceability from “hive to home” – if it doesn’t, you can’t be confident you know it’s come from a hive of real New Zealand Manuka Honey.

Genuine brands will be proud to show you the lab tests and certificates undertaken on your batch. If a seller is unable to show you these, they may have something to hide.

It’s important to know where your honey has been, because as recently as 2019 a New Zealand company was fined for adding a synthetic component to its Manuka to try and increase the strength. Read more here.

Supermarket giant Tesco has also been caught up in a fake honey scandal, having to withdraw jars from sale after tests revealed they contained sugar syrups. Read more here.

Another reason to be wary is the UK remains the top destination in the world for bulk Manuka honey from New Zealand.

Bulk Manuka means honey which is shipped in large metal drums. And once out of New Zealand, it can be diluted, blended, or mixed in any way with no paperwork trail to support it.

WARNING: 10 UK honey brands failed authenticity test

Fake honey blended with cheap sugar syrup has been exposed in a new investigation by the European Commission which found 46% of sampled products were suspected to be fraudulent.

According to the 2023 report, all 10 honey samples from the UK all failed the tests. They may have been blended or packaged in Britain, but some of the honey inside “probably originated overseas”.

Click here to read the report. 

The government told The Guardian newspaper it was investigating the results, but there was no risk to food safety.

While the EU's anti-fraud office (Olaf) said: "Such practices defraud consumers and put honest producers in jeopardy as they face unfair competition from operators who can slash prices thanks to illicit, cheap ingredients."

The action was led by the European Commission's directorate general for health and food safety.

Investigators tested 320 samples, including 10 from the UK, and found that in total 147 (46%) were suspicious, where "at least one marker of extraneous sugar sources was detected".

The report went on to reveal that 10 honey samples from the UK had a suspicion rate of 100% and "this could be the result of honey produced in other countries and further processed in the UK".

In 2022, the UK imported more than 38,000 tonnes of honey from China, where there is a known risk of adulteration with sugar syrup. Country of origin labelling is not required for a blended honey product from more than one country, so many shoppers don’t know a cheaper pot of honey probably contains Chinese honey as well.

This news story is just the latest in a series of honey fraud developments in recent years.

Sadly, because Manuka honey is one of the world's most rare and powerful honeys, it too is often subject to blending, dilution, and worse, artificial contamination.

Which means that it's vital you do you homework when shopping for Manuka to ensure you buy a genuine brand that's harvested and packed in New Zealand.

What about Australian Manuka Honey?

New Zealand is the only country in the world which has created a strict scientific definition of what Manuka honey contains. Insisting on a DNA test on all honey to prove it is from the New Zealand Manuka bush (Leptospermum Scoparia).

Australia also harvests a honey called Jellybush, which some bee-keepers have decided to rename Manuka due to it being linked to a distant relative of New Zealand’s Manuka bush.

Australia does not have the same legal definition and strict scientific tests for their Jellybush honey, meaning currently Australian companies may call their honey "manuka" unchallenged.

New Zealand is fiercely opposed to this and currently a legal battle is underway to protect the name Manuka for solely New Zealand products.

Manuka Doctor is a proud New Zealand company whose honey is harvested, tested, and packed in New Zealand itself before being exported around the world.

For Authentic New Zealand Manuka - Look For The FernMark

We are thrilled to announce that Manuka Doctor is part of the prestigious New Zealand FernMark Licence Programme.

The Programme is a Government initiative to support true Kiwi brands exporting quality products around the world. Each eligible business on the Programme is provided with a Licence to carry our international symbol of trust, our trademark silver fern, the FernMark.

The Silver Fern is one of New Zealand's most recognised, long-standing, and respected national symbols.

Since the late 19th Century the silver fern has been worn with pride by our sports teams, with honour by our soldiers and used to represent New Zealand all over the world.

But why is the Silver Fern so special?

Māori hunters and warriors would use the silver underside of the fern leaves to find their way. When bent over, the fronds (large leaves) would catch the moonlight and illuminate a path through the forest.

Today, the Silver Fern is still guiding the way, just as it has for over 150 years.

The New Zealand Government and businesses such as Manuka Doctor have helped grow the FernMark into a recognisable and valuable icon. Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have also adopted the Silver Fern as the country of origin symbol for New Zealand.

To carry the FernMark a business needs to show that they reflect the essence of the country by being registered in New Zealand, compliant with all New Zealand laws and relevant regulations and have a substantial level of New Zealand ownership, governance and full time employees. We are proud to say Manuka Doctor meets all of these criteria to be a registered FernMark brand that you can trust.

In addition, every one of our Manuka honey products under the FernMark Licence Programme has been assessed on whether it meets the minimum requirements for being made, grown or designed in New Zealand.

The FernMark is just the latest standard which our Manuka honey is guaranteed to meet.

To read more on the quality standards our honey is checked against, including the MPI definition, multifloral or monofloral and MGO levels, head on over to this blog which explains more about the testing and science behind our Manuka honey.

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Article References
  1. Ministry for Primary Industries. Manuka Honey. https://www.mpi.govt.nz/growing-and-harvesting/honey-and-bees/manuka-honey/

  2. Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011;1(2):154-60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/

  3. Grainger M, Owens A, Manley-Harris M, et al. Kinetics of conversion of dihydroxyacetone to methylglyoxal in New Zealand mānuka honey: Part IV – Formation of HMF. Food Chemistry. 2017;232:648-655. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.04.066