Guest writer Oliver Wastie sheds light on our manuka mayhem…

1 FI Honey

Honey is wonderful. We’ve mentioned it before and it’s many beneficial properties (as well as tasting simply scrumptious, of course). But manuka honey really is top of the tree when it comes to healing and health properties. However, recent studies have highlighted that we are buying more manuka honey than is actually being produced. So, how do we know what we are purchasing is the real deal?

Guest writer, Oliver Wastie has long been interested in Manuka honey and its fascinating properties. He has even set up his own website to pass on this knowledge and make manuka more accessible. Who better, then, to shed some light on this sticky situation?

How to spot REAL manuka honey by Green Bay

How to spot REAL manuka honey by Green Bay

If you are the one in your household who has the pleasure of swinging the shopping basket merrily down the aisle for your mid-weekly shop or are the power behind the fingers that do the clicking online, you may have found yourself lost for words when it comes to manuka honey. You know it has antibacterial properties at the very least not to mention its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties – but where do you start? How can you be sure you are buying a genuine manuka honey worthy of that sometimes eye-watering price tag?

Alphabet soup

If you are taking your first tentative steps of discovery into the world of manuka honey, one thing that will become immediately apparent is the mind-boggling array of abbreviations and adjectives used to describe it: UMF, NPA, MGO, TA, active, and bioactive, and so the list goes on. But what does it all mean?

Know your honey science

If you understand what makes manuka honey different from all other types of honey it can help you work out what the labels mean.

There is something special about manuka honey and scientists refer to its unique antibacterial effect as ‘non-peroxide activity’ (NPA) and this is what you need if you want the real-deal special honey. The second bit of science to be aware of, is that this antibacterial effect happens if manuka honey contains the distinctly scientific sounding element ‘methylglyoxal’, which is at least handily abbreviated as MGO.


Why the confusion?

The confusion lies in the fact that all honey has some level of antiseptic quality because it contains hydrogen peroxide. But if you are interested manuka honey’s famous antibacterial nature it needs to have non-peroxide activity.

Two reliable trademarks

There are two international trademarks that you can rely on to give assurance that what is in the jar is genuine manuka honey. The most well-known of these is the UMF label, or Unique Manuka Factor, which is a trademark managed by an association of 57 member companies. Manuka honey using this trademark is independently tested, verified and then graded on a scale from 5+ to a very strong 20+ (it is possible to get stronger UMF honey but these are very rare). You can find the list of approved UMF honey organisations here.

The second trademark is MGO Manuka Honey, which was pioneered around the research on methylglyoxal (MGO) in manuka honey, and the MGO level can vary from 30+ to a whopping 800+.


Wait! Not so simple

However, not all producers of genuine manuka honey are members of these two trademark schemes. Some producers of high quality honey use similar independent testing methods but use the abbreviations NPA (non-peroxide activity) or MGO (methylglyoxal) on the label.

All change

The confusion this has caused and some recent well-publicised scandals involving labelling of manuka honey has led the New Zealand government to issue guidelines on the labelling of manuka honey. This is likely to result in many changes in how manuka honey is labelled and some producers have already changed their packaging. In practice, this means the label will state the MGO level of the honey.

Still confused?

If you are still confused by reading this then just remember this tip. If you are buying manuka honey specifically for its antibacterial properties then you should find the information mentioned here on the label. The jar should clearly identify a number which will refer to: non-eroxide activity, UMF level or MGO level.


We’ve also got a tub of quality 10+ manuka honey to giveaway to one lucky reader. All you have to do to win is let us know why you love honey in the comment box below. Competition closes 12th March. 

Manuka Tub

Want another spoonful?
Read more about the wonders of honey and its many uses.
Or head on over to Manuka Honey World.

Emma Cullen

Emma is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker that has been released into the wild

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12 Responses to Manuka Honey: to bee or not to bee

  1. I love not only the flavor of honey but the health benefits. The ingredients list is also a big plus. I use honey at least twice a day, once at breakfast in my oatmeal and again at lunch. I make a homemade banana nut bread and top it with almond butter, sliced banana coins and a heavy drizzle of the nectar of the Gods! Thanks for the opportunity to win some honey I have yet to try, always looking for new varieties!

  2. Tim McMinn says:

    Honey is great, honey is sweet, honey makes a perfect treat. Put it on porridge, put it on toast, even use it to glaze your roast. Give me some money and you won’t find it me spending it on a chocolate bunny, I will spend it on some lovely delicious honey!

  3. Ezzie says:

    I love the taste, the health benefits and I love it as an alternative to sugar!

  4. Clara Cort says:

    I love it with my breakfast, porridge or pancakes 🙂

  5. Marcus Granville says:

    To bee honeyst, I bee- lieve honey is the tastiest spread on my
    toast, gives me a real Buzz every time I taste it! I could wax lyrical for
    hours and im not pollen your leg! Now i dont want to drone on so to sumarise….Hive five to Honey!

  6. nessa38ish says:

    yummy honey,on my toast, i love the most,in my tea,fills me with glee,i love you honey you are so runny,sweet and gold,and oh so YUMMY XX

  7. Lynn Caldwell says:

    …the bees knees of sore throat cures!

  8. BabettesFfest says:

    Why do I love honey? I simply love the taste of it!

  9. Lynn says:

    We love the flavour, but also it really helps our daughter who has ASD to have a better more relaxing nights sleep, we simply add a spoonful to some warm milk.

  10. elaine says:

    I love honey on toast, I drink honey and hot lemon I just love honey

  11. I am a real life honey monster and I would love to write about this on if I win!

  12. Fed Up Drunk says:

    Congratulations to @marcusgranville:disqus. We thought his poetic comment was the bees-knees and Marcus you’ve bagged yourself a tub of 10+ manuka honey. Please could you email [email protected] your contact details and we’ll get your prize sent out to you.

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