How to read a Manuka honey label?

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.

It’s true. Manuka honey jars do have a lot of numbers on them!

But what do these numbers on a Manuka Honey label mean? And which ones should you really pay attention to?

This blog explains more with five helpful things to check for on your Manuka Honey label.

1. The MGO Number

The large number on the front of every jar of Manuka Doctor honey is its MGO rating – which shows the strength of the honey’s antimicrobial activity.

MGO is short for methylglyoxal, the naturally-occurring chemical unique to honey made from nectar gathered from the Manuka bush.

Scientific tests have shown this chemical has antimicrobial properties and the more the honey contains, the greater its bug-fighting power.

Because higher MGO grades of Manuka are much rarer, and not all bee-keepers can harvest them, these higher grades tend to be more expensive.

2. A UMF Number

UMF is another form of grading Manuka honey.

Brands who display a UMF number must pay a royalty to the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) Honey Association in New Zealand who administer the scheme.

UMF measures four different compounds in order to ascertain a number (often 5+, 10+ or 15+).

One of the natural compounds that is measured to check a Manuka’s UMF level is in-fact MGO itself. So the two scales do somewhat correlate.

Here is a helpful table to establish the MGO rating required to be certified at a UMF grade.

UMF to MGO Conversion Chart

3. The numbers on the lid and New Zealand MPI standard

Each jar of Manuka Doctor honey carries a sticker on the lid confirming the honey meets the strict definition of Manuka Honey set by the New Zealand Government and is “Tested Certified Manuka”.

This means each batch has been tested at an independent laboratory for five key markers which prove the honey was made from nectar gathered by bees from the Manuka bush. The markers are made up of four naturally-occurring chemicals and one DNA marker from Manuka pollen.

These key naturally occurring chemical markers are known as phenolic acids. Their full names are called 3-Phenyllactic acid, 2-Methoxyacetophenone, 2-Methoxybenzoic acid and 4-Hydroxypheyllactic acid – so you can see why we can’t fit them on our labels!

Instead, every Manuka Doctor jar displays the minimum levels it contains of each of the chemicals on the lid, referred to by their shortened names: 3-PLA, 2-MAP, 2-MBA and 4-HPLA.

4. Mono or Multi Floral?

Our jars also state the honey is either “Monofloral” or “Multifloral”. This tells you whether the honey is made predominantly from nectar from the Manuka bush itself (Monofloral) or from a combination of Manuka and other flowers which the bees visited on their way back to the hive (Multifloral).

Independent testing establishes how much of each of the five markers are in each batch of honey – and these results are used to determine whether it is monofloral or multifloral Manuka Honey.

As a handy reference point, Monofloral Manukas tend to be MGO 100 and above. Whereas Multifloral Manuka tends to have a lower MGO rating.

For honey to be classed as “monofloral” it has to contain at least 400mg/kg of 3-PLA and 5mg/kg of 2-MAP, as well as at least 1mg/kg of the other two chemicals. “Multifloral” Manuka Honey contains between 20 and 400 mg/kg of 3-PLA and at least 1mg/kg of the other three chemicals.

As Monofloral Manuka contains higher levels of natural chemicals associated with the Manuka bush, it is therefore a purer grade.

5. Country of Origin

Under the UK’s Honey (England) Regulations 2015 rules, all honey sold in the UK must list its country of origin on the label.

That’s why all our Manuka Doctor honey simply says “Product of New Zealand” with a special New Zealand Made logo. Because all our honey is harvested and packed in the country of origin. It is never packed in a “third country”. When we screw the security seal onto your jar in our factory in Hamilton, NZ. Nobody opens it until you do.

But this is not true for all types of Manuka honey you can buy here in the UK.

Some brands will declare they are a “Product of New Zealand” but then underneath it may say “Packed in the UK”.

In reality it means that their Manuka honey has likely been exported out of New Zealand in giant metal drums. It then gets processed and packed in the UK. Which is out of the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Government.

Manuka Doctor doesn’t do this, because in our view, the supply chain is broken.

Our Hive to Home® promise means that we can trace every single jar we produce right back to the group of bee-hives it was created from. It’s something that sets Manuka Doctor apart from other brands, and as a consumer, helps protect you from a poor quality product or worse, an imitation.

All Manuka Doctor honey is harvested and packed in New Zealand and tested five-times between the bee-keeper and final sale.

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