Manuka Honey Ratings - The Differences between UMF, MGO and Total Activity - Banner

Manuka honey is harvested from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), which is native mainly to New Zealand. Unlike other honeys, Manuka honey itself is prized for its antibacterial and healing bioactive properties which is found in the nectar. Due to its limited supply, Manuka honey tends to be more expensive than other types of honey. 

In fact, there are many different ways to rate the quality of Manuka honey, including measurements such as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), Total Activity (TA) or Methylglyoxal levels (MGO). Due to differing private standards of ratings in New Zealand, the government is reviewing a standardized way to classify Manuka honey, including testing for chemical markers and DNA of the Manuka pollen. 

However before that comes into effect, it’s important to learn about the different standards of ratings as a consumer and understand the product that you are buying.

What is Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) Rating?

Unique Manuka Factor tests for the presence of key signature markers of Manuka honey -  Leptosperin, Methylglyoxal and Dihydroxyacetone - and its grading number is based on the combination these markers:
  •  Low Grade:  UMF5 to UMF9 
  •  Medium Grade:  UMF10 to UMF15
  •  Superior High Grade:  UMF16+  

The higher the UMF number, the more prevalent the presence of Manuka honey attributes.

UMF Number is tested and assigned by an independent company for the antibacterial activity of the Manuka honey. To receive this labelling, the honey must be tested by this company and assigned the number, and also commands a royalty fee for every bottle.

However, chemicals tested to get the UMF rating in Manuka honey, like DHA and MGO, can be potentially bought and artificially added into honey to make high UMF honey. This has even occurred recently for some Manuka honey products sold in Singapore (Straits Times Feb 26, 2016: AVA recalls honey Evergreen Life Ltd Manuka Honey products).

What about MGO Honey Rating?

Manuka honey can also be graded for the amount of MGO found in its product. The higher the MGO content, the higher the grade and quality of honey. 

However, as mentioned above MGO can be synthetically produced and artificially added into honey to boost MGO ratings. Moreover, MGO is formed by the interaction of DHA (a type of sugar) with other naturally occurring proteins and amino acids in the honey. It increases over time during storage, even more so if it is stored for an extended period of time in a very warm environment. It can also be artificially and quickly increased by heating or cooking Manuka honey. 

If MGO is removed from Manuka Honey, this MGO-free Manuka honey still remains active against bacteria. Based on some scientific studies, MGO is a highly toxic compound that induces or is linked to cancer and diabetes. 

What is the Total Activity Rating of Manuka Honey?

Total Activity is the degree of antibacterial activity of the Manuka honey compared to a standard disinfectant solution. For example, Total Activity 15+ Manuka honey is the same disinfectant activity as a 15% phenol solution. 

Generally, the higher the TA, the stronger or more effective the honey is in killing bacteria.

Total Activity Scale

< 8.2 + : Not detected

8.2+ to 10+ : Low Activity

10+ to 15+ : Medium Activity

> 15+ : High Activity

Total Activity of 10+ or more is regarded as important in the killing of bacteria and germs that cause diseases, for example Staphylococcus Aureus. 

Scientists seem to agree that the TA of Manuka honey is due to two main groups of naturally occurring chemicals in Manuka honey:

Peroxide Activity (PA):

When Manuka honey is diluted with water, a naturally occurring enzyme glucose oxidase (produced by the bees in the honey) reacts with the glucose in the honey to gradually form hydrogen peroxide. This is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent in conjunction with honey’s other antiseptic properties.

Non Peroxide Activity (NPA):

Other than hydrogen peroxide, there are other antibacterial chemicals in the honey. Some of these include MGO formed over time in honey, from the reaction of a saccharide called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which originates from the nectar of the Manuka flower.

Nature’s Glory Singapore Manuka Honey Ratings

Nature’s Glory Manuka Honey is tested by New Zealand government-accredited laboratories for TA and is certified organic based upon International Organic Standards. No sugar, antibiotics or chemicals are added to the honey. We offer Manuka honey with a TA rating of 15+ and 30+.

Furthermore, our Manuka honey generally has a pollen count of between 80%-95%, which shows that our honey has been harvested mainly from Manuka bushes. In fact, our Manuka honey is ethically harvested from untouched, conserved land on the South Island of New Zealand, ensuring a pure and authentic source of Manuka honey.

To find out more about our Manuka Honeys from Nature's Glory Singapore, click here.

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