Manuka Honey – How to buy a real deal and not some snake oil

On Sunday 25th August 2013 The Sunday Times published a very interesting article about manuka honey. Did you know that statistics show that we actually bought significantly more manuka honey than it was in fact harvested? Around 1,700 tons of manuka honey is produced every year and UK consumers alone bought 1,800 tons of it, this number worldwide reaches 10,000 tons.

This information was published in The Sunday Times on 25-08-2013

This information was published in The Sunday Times on 25-08-2013

So how is it possible?

The answer is quite simple – mislabelling of other types of honey and passing it off as manuka honey.

This doesn’t sound very honest but like with all things… where additional money can be made by exploiting a loophole; people will find a way to make it, even if this means cheating and defrauding others.

What is Manuka Honey?

Simply put it is honey that comes from bees visiting the flowers of the manuka plant (or tree), a native species of New Zealand AND NO OTHER flower. Some of this honey (important to note it is not all the same, hence the importance of UMF unique manuka factor mark) has been found to contain extra antibacterial properties, over and above the benefits from other honeys. It is a natural product (and hence the natural variation) that actually has some modern science and research supporting it.

What’s so special about Manuka Honey?

Manuka Honey is a unique honey that is native to New Zealand.

As a natural remedy, Manuka honey is one that actually has some proper academic research to support it. If referring to the correct grade of honey that is.

There are plenty of anecdotal evidence and success stories on its usage. Helping with digestive disorders, peptic ulcers, wound treatment, and leg ulcers are some of its regular uses.

Manuka honey can work and can aid you in several areas, but bear in mind it is not a magic cure for everything.

So what is it that makes some manuka honey special? All honeys have a level of hydrogen peroxide, which provides some level of activity from the actions of the enzyme glucose oxidase that is also found in honey. But this can be adversely affected by other enzymes found in wound fluids and body tissue.  It is also not stable, and reduces over time.

However, some manuka honey (and only some) also contains a non-peroxide antibacterial property, what has been named  the ‘unique manuka factor’ (UMF). It is the UMF that creates the special properties, including the extra antibacterial and antibiotic properties, that is found in only some manuka honey, as the UMF is not affected by the other enzymes, and is much more stable and active in a variety of conditions. To find the existence of UMF in manuka honey, it needs to be tested for its level of non-peroxide antibacterial activity. This test should be done by an independent laboratory for each batch of honey.

How to make sure you get what you are paying for?

Look for the UMF mark on the jar; this mark acts as a total quality standard for consumers.


To carry the UMF brand, the manufacturer or owner of the brand must hold a current UMF license with UMFHA (Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association).  In addition, genuine UMF Manuka Honey complies with all five of the following criteria:

  • UMF is clearly stated on the front label.
  • It is packed into jars and labelled in New Zealand.
  • It is from a New Zealand company licensed by UMFHA to use the name UMF.
  • It has the UMF licensee’s name on the front label.
  • It has a rating of UMF 5+ or more.

Don’t get tempted by low price and other advertised gimmicks like “active” as this word is not under control and everyone can put it on. But if you really want to be sure that you are getting a real deal  the only advice which comes to mind is to buy from reputable source like The New Zealand Honey Shop.

We can check the labels in our everyday supermarket in search of an “authentic” manuka honey but as we now know these labels cannot be trusted. If you are really going to spend £45 for 500g of manuka honey, there is no better way to be sure like getting it from the source.

Funny thing is that manuka honey is everywhere. I just did a google search for it and I can get it from my local supermarket for £8.99 per 250g – advertised as 100% pure Active Manuka Honey or from “reputable” UK health web shop – £15.67 for 500g jar labelled as Active 12+ Manuka Honey.

If you aren’t sure if your manuka honey is a real deal check the UMF honey association.  A few names which can be trusted are for example Comvita, Commell’s Honey Limited or Natural Solution East Cape.

Do you use Manuka Honey?



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64 responses to “Manuka Honey – How to buy a real deal and not some snake oil

  1. I had no idea about this. How awful. I’m not a fan of honey but this was a really interesting read. Thanks so much for sharing and linking up to #GoldenOldies

  2. Pingback: The Healthiest Gift from the Nature - Manuka Honey

  3. That is really very interesting! I had some idea that some manuka honey was dodgy but had no idea that it was that bad. Thank you for sharing this. I am sharing your post on Twitter from #pocolo.

  4. Agatha this is really nice! I love honey and bees and its my dream to have a hive one day! I notice that there are an abundance of them in the market now and yes so true that there might be a lot of them that are not even Manuka at all. Thanks for this post it is really helpful and all the important infos noted =) #pocolo

  5. Sandra

    Hi..thanks for this information, it’s clarified a lot about the Manuka honey. I really face so difficult to find real honey as there is no enough bees to produce the volume of hone sold in supermarkets around the world but people don’t care…I really don’t know what is in those cans or how trusted they are. some time ago I noticed the manuka honey in the shelfs and some of them were quite expensive and then suddenly I noticed lots of new products saying they are manuka honey but much more cheaper. it didn’t sound good…then I did some research and found your article and I can say it helped me a lot. I’m recovering from a sore throat quickly because I could find a proper manuka honey in a shop based on the links you have shared here. I ordered a small can to try…I couldn’t believe how fast it works and the taste is very good 🙂

  6. Where can I get genuine Manuka Honey in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia ? Please give name of your reliable Dealer in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore,where I can buy Manuka Honey. Lot of fake products in the market these days.

  7. Bernadetta

    What about in Canada? Is there a reputable dealer here? All of our health food stores are full of hundreds of cans, jars etc. None of them show UMF number only an MGO sticker on top of the label. Am I buying a table honey and paying a fortune here?
    Please help if you can.

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