New publication by Dr. Molan about Rating of Activity of Manuka honey

The new rating has to give beekeepers more options for marketing the honey they produce, and at the same time hopefully will encourage reputable packing companies overseas to sell genuine Active Manuka Honey. The university will also make the proprietary assay available to regulatory authorities overseas so that they can easily check if Manuka honey on sale in their countries genuinely does have the activity claimed.

It is a well known fact that there is much variation in the activity of Manuka honey. In: „A survey of the antibacterial activity of some New Zealand honeys‟, Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 43, 817–822) it was noted that:
The present survey has shown not all samples said to be manuka honey can be relied upon to provide this antibacterial activity.
It was from this came the term “Active Manuka Honey”. The term was used in a fact sheet put out by the New Zealand Honey Food & Ingredient Advisory Service in 1998, which said:
All of the patients in the trials who were taking the special active manuka honey, as opposed to those patients taking ordinary inactive manuka honey, had a marked improvement in their symptoms.
It also said:
Research at the University of Waikato showed that some New Zealand manuka honey (and it is important to emphasise “some”, not all) New Zealand manuka honey has a unique antibacterial activity. Laboratory trials showed that this active manuka honey is effective in killing Helicobacter pylori.

Because of increasing publicity about active manuka honey though news media reports on the research being done at the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato, the public demand for this special honey increased. But it also brought out people seeking to gain financially by „passing off‟ to the public so-called manuka honey which did not have the unique antibacterial activity. In 1997 I was asked by TRADENZ (the predecessor to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise) to help with the setting up of an Industry Group for the producers of the genuine active manuka honey, and to advise on how best the producers of the genuine active manuka honey, and consumers, could be protected from those selling manuka honey without the unique type of activity yet implying that it was the same thing.

Unfortunately the recommendations I made have not provided the answer to the problem. For instance, in the UK it is said that much of the manuka honey on sale does not have measureable levels of the non-peroxide antibacterial activity that is unique to manuka honey. Similarly there is honey on sale in New Zealand where the rating of activity on it is not a rating of the unique type of activity as measured by the assay described in Allen et al. (1991). There are also people selling manuka honey with the activity claimed to be the unique non-peroxide activity “assayed by the method developed by Dr. Molan” but there are beekeepers saying that different results from different laboratories are obtained for the same honey. There have also been many complaints that poor repeatability in results is seen when the same honey is sent repeatedly to the same laboratory. Consequently there is a need for a method for assaying and certifying the unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity of manuka honey that is accurate, highly reliable, independent of competing companies, open to anyone meeting set standards, and in which consumers can have confidence.

A condition of use of this new proprietary assay will be that the results are not to be used for rating the activity of honey sold in retail packs unless the producer is licensed to have the University of Waikato certification of activity on the packs. This new assay will be a service available only for beekeepers to know the activity of bulk quantities of honey. This is because there will also be offered by the University of Waikato a certification of the correctness of the rating of antibacterial activity of retail packs of honey. This certification will be done only after assay of samples of finished labelled retail packs with labels bearing the batch number, with proof of consistency of activity throughout the batch being required, so as remove any scope for error which could lead to consumers purchasing jars of honey with activity not true to label.
The certification will include a statement of the statistical confidence in the correctness of the rating, for example, “There is 99.9% certainty that the activity is no more than 0.1 units below what is stated.”

Read the rest of the publication at the Waikato University website.


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