Demystifying Manuka Honey Ratings

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UMF Rating

Good, honest labelling

NPA, UMF, Active, Total Activity, 20+, MGO, 550 ……

The world of Mauka Honey ratings is confusing especially as the beneficial part of honey cannot actually be tasted. It all sounds very scientific but which rating is the best one to use and what does it mean? Well, it all comes down to good and honest labelling.

All honey types have anti-bacterial properties which are due to an enzyme called hydroden peroxide. However, hydrogen peroxide is easily broken down especially by blood and saliva making which ultimate makes it ineffective in terms of antiseptic benefits.  Manuka Honey, on the other hand, is unique as under any condition its antibacterial properties are retained, even though heating – so a medical grade (i.e. sterilised) manuka honey, still has the antibacterial benefits.

In 2005, Professor Dr Thomas Henle’s research group discovered that methylglyoxal (MGO) was responsible for the stable anti-bacterial activity in manuka honey. Interestingly, the antibacterial benefits are derive from a chemical reaction that occurs after the bees have collected the nectar meaning that the manuka trees nectar does not have any antibacterial benefits in itself. The origin of MGO is from a sugar present in the nectar and the chemical reaction occurs when the bee processes the nectar into honey.

Why does Manuka Honey strength vary?

It is the amount of Manuka pollen and the purity of this pollen that makes the difference in terms of Manuka Honey strength. Quite often Manuka Honey will have indications on pack that imply it is ‘Active’ – some of those are listed above. Labelling laws no longer allow companies to claim ‘active’ on pack so other marketing measures are often seen instead. When a company implies a level of activity it is important to be sure that they are not referring to hydrogen peroxide that is present in all honeys. You need to ensure they are referring to MGO as this is what gives Manuka Honey its antibacterial magic. Good manufacturers will have this on their pack which they will call MGO or ‘NPA’ (non peroxide activity). If this rating is not on pack then it is a possibility that the Manuka pollen level is not the predominant source as the honey could be produced from Kanuka instead.

Which brands state NPA on pack?

There are many brands across New Zealand that label their packs. Here are some of our favourites:

Watson and Sons

Wild Honey

Happy Valley

Pure Honey New Zealand


Waiemata Honey

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