If you’ve not heard of Manuka honey, then I suspect you’ve been secluded away somewhere with no television and no WIFI. It’s been the rage for the last few years for its purported health benefits from wound healing and skin care to treating gum disease and more. Problem is, that expensive, trendy jar of New Zealand Manuka honey may be fake.
Thanks to hoards of high profile celebrities and media, online and off, Manuka honey has been turned into a commercial trend in great demand. Unfortunately – and like nearly ALL trends – supply cannot meet demand and fake or at best, diluted Manuka honey has flooded the market by greedy opportunistic ‘suppliers’.
Some supermarket brands with prices nearing £45 (roughly $56 or €53) for a pot of liquid gold may not even have a drop of true Manuka honey in it after all. Fortnum and Masons of England, a well known department store specializing in luxury items has removed all its Manuka honey after it was tested to not be Manuka honey after all. They are certainly not the only big name store to be duped either.
Difficult to harvest
Traditionally, Manuka honey was harvested by the Maori folk of New Zealand sometimes with great difficulty due to where the Manuka shrub-trees grow, such as on cliffs and other hard to reach terrain. This sometimes meant using handmade rope to lower someone to carefully collect it. Today, honey farmers use helicopters to place hives near the flowering bushes. But competition is high and some landowners have started to cultivate Manuka plantations.
In just 8 years, New Zealand honey has surged to an impressive $183 million industry as a result of sales of honey labeled as ‘Manuka honey’. Be sure to watch the video at the end of this post.
Put it to the test
As stated by Paul Dansted, one of the directors at the Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand, no ‘legal standard’ nor test for Manuka exists. As a result there is no scientific definition nor industry standard to guarantee that honey labelled Manuka honey really is genuine.
You can see why this is ideal for unscrupulous, greedy honey producers to take advantage of the Manuka craze.
Fortunately, the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, which also represents the Manuka producers, paid the Food and Environmental Research Agency (FERA), a privately run UK research agency to develop the first test. That test can, without a doubt, identify unique compounds found only in Manuka honey. In an interview, John Rawcliffe of the UMFHA said “…the bona-fide Manuka farmers need to protect their product. The new test could allow sellers of fake manuka to be prosecuted. That changes the game.”
Using mass spectrometry, FERA’s researchers were able to isolate and identify four unique compounds to profile true Manuka honey accurately. This is without a doubt a world first.
As a result, tests carried out on several UK brands of ‘Manuka Honey’ failed miserably because either the key indicators were too high or others too low to match the true Manuka honey profile.
Here’s a short list of but a few tested UK brands:
- Fortnum and Mason – £12.95 for 280g failed
- Holland & Barret’s Real Honey Company – £25.99 for 250g failed
- Nelson Honey – £8.26 for 250g – failed
And so it went for several supermarket chains as well.
Fortnum and Mason removed all stock immediately from their shelves, stating they had trusted an independent company that had certified their honey supply was genuine.
Holland & Barret protested that they felt confident of their honey, stating they had carried out their own checks.
Nelson’s Honey also claims theirs was also ‘independently tested’.
Oh? They too trusted ‘an independent lab’? It looks like those ‘independent labs’ hadn’t yet gotten wind of the FERA test that does indeed indisputably identify the fake from the real.
If there is one fact that with certainty cannot be ignored it is this: roughly 10,000 TONS of supposed Manuka honey is sold all over the world yearly. New Zealand produces only 1,700 tons of the real stuff.
Do you still think that extravagantly priced jar of Manuka honey sitting prominently placed in your kitchen is the real thing?