UMF™ - The Ultimate Rating System for Manuka Honey
As the pioneer and global leader in crafting Manuka Honey, Comvita has always been committed to purity, safety and authenticity. For over 46 years, we’ve cultivated a reputation that goes beyond our word and turns to the industry’s most rigorous and comprehensive independent standard: UMF™ Certification. We test every single batch of our Manuka Honey to be sure it meets (and exceeds) all requirements and levels of active compounds to provide the cleanest, highest quality Manuka Honey, period. Learn more from our Head of Research, Dr. Jackie Evans, PhD in this exclusive Q&A below:
What makes UMF™ Certified Manuka Honey different from other honeys?
The UMF™ system is the gold standard for independent assurance of the origin, quality and potency of Manuka Honey. Only the highest quality Manuka Honey carries the UMF™ mark. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF™) system is an independently certified quality mark issued by the UMF™ Honey Association. The UMF™ mark is only granted to genuine monofloral Manuka Honey from New Zealand and it is the only grading standard where the governing organization carries out independent testing of its members’ honey once it reaches retail and online stores globally, thus guaranteeing authenticity for consumers. All Comvita monofloral Manuka Honey is certified with the UMF™ mark. Without the UMF™ certification, consumers can’t be sure of the origins or quality of honeys without it. For reference, here’s what the official UMF™ logo looks like, located on the front of Comvita Manuka Honey jars:
From a scientific perspective, what makes the UMF™ certification critical to buying genuine Manuka Honey, and what do the UMF™ numbers signify?
The UMF™ mark certifies that the honey contains specific unique signature compounds characteristic of genuine Manuka Honey. These 3 compounds are leptosperin, methylglyoxal (MGO) and dihydroxyacteone (DHA) - more on those below. Only the UMF™ mark certifies the presence of all three of these natural compounds. The number that accompanies the UMF™ mark (e.g. 5+, 10+, 15+, 20+) represents the amount of these compounds and the magnitude of the unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity of the Manuka Honey when compared to a control solution of the known disinfection agent phenol. For example, Manuka Honey with a UMF™ rating of 10+ has the equivalent antibacterial potency as a 10% solution of phenol. A higher UMF™ rating number indicates higher purity and antibacterial potency of the Manuka Honey.
The 3 key chemical markers measured in the UMF™ rating for authentic Manuka Honey are MGO, leptosperin, and dihydroxyacetone.
MGO - what is it & what does it do? What do MGO numbers signify?
MGO stands for Methylglyoxal. MGO is a compound found in Manuka Honey which is principally responsible for its stable unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity that is not present in other honey types. The number that accompanies MGO e.g MGO 83+ indicates the amount of MGO per kg of honey, so an MGO 83+ honey contains at least 83 mg of MGO per kg of honey. There have been some cases of adulteration where synthetically made MGO has been added into honey to make ‘fake’ Manuka Honey, therefore, measuring MGO alone is not a guarantee of the purity and quality of Manuka Honey.
Leptosperin - what is it & what does it do?
Leptosperin is a unique natural plant compound found in the nectar of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) flowers and therefore Manuka Honey. It is extremely difficult to make synthetically and is not commercially available so it cannot be artificially added to honey, making it an excellent marker for authentic Manuka Honey. Research has shown that Leptosperin may have particular anti-inflammatory properties.
Dihydroxyacetone - what is it & what does it do?
Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a natural plant compound found in the nectar of Manuka flowers. DHA converts to MGO over time in Manuka Honey as it matures.
How should shoppers evaluate other ratings such as Non-Peroxide Activity, Bio-Activity or Factors. Do any of those qualifications have objective, quantifiable meaning?
Unfortunately many grading and rating systems used by companies do not give consumers reassurance of quality. Only the UMF™ and MGO ratings are based on science. Other rating systems are mostly made up by companies not able to meet the quality and purity requirements of the UMF™ standard, they are not based on science.
About Dr. Jackie Evans:
Dr. Jackie Evans, PhD is Head of Research for Comvita. Prior to joining Comvita in 2017, she worked in global clinical development roles in the Pharmaceutical Industry in the United Kingdom, and in national pharmaceutical funding roles with the New Zealand government. She has a First Class honours degree in Microbiology from the University of Reading and a PhD in Virology from University College London, where she studied HIV immunology. At Comvita, she applies her science and clinical research background and skills to advance the science of Comvita’s products, working with the best researchers to deliver the highest quality products backed by science. She is a mom to two girls and lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.