Criteria for defining Australian Manuka Honey

Authors: Dr Peter Brooks, Dr Craig Davis, Dr Shona Blair and Dr Nural Cokcetin Scientific Advisory Committee to the Australian Manuka Honey Association.

The below provides a set of robust science-based criteria to identify, define and authenticate Australian Manuka honey.

What is Australian Manuka honey?

Australian Manuka honey is produced naturally by bees, from the nectar of plants of the Leptospermum genus. Australia has the largest diversity of Leptospermum plants in the world, with over 80 native species growing throughout the country in a variety of habitats from coastal dunes to high mountain peaks.

Background

Manuka honey is one of the most famous honeys in the world because of its medicinal properties. Numerous scientific studies have shown that this honey has potent antimicrobial activity. The special properties of Manuka honey were first found in New Zealand in the 1980s (Molan & Russell, 1988) and since then we have discovered many sources of active Manuka honey in Australia stemming from the Leptospermum species (Cokcetin, Pappalardo et al., 2016).

A naturally-occurring chemical compound called methylglyoxal (MGO) is responsible for much of the special activity of Manuka honey. This MGO comes from another chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which occurs naturally in the nectar of flowers of some Leptospermum plants.

The purpose of developing robust scientific criteria for identifying and defining Australian Manuka honey is to use a standardised approach to prove product authenticity, provide confidence for consumers, and distinguish Australian Manuka honey from other honey types to help mitigate against fraud.

Authenticating Australian Manuka honey

Australian Manuka honey can be pure monofloral Manuka (having ≥ 50% of the nectar derived from one floral source (Moar, 1985)), or a multifloral Manuka blend that also contains nectars collected by the bees from other floral sources. The level of various naturally occurring compounds in the honey will determine its level of activity.

Pure, active Australian Manuka honey
All honey defined and labelled as Active Australian Manuka and carrying the Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) logo, must be produced in Australia, and be tested by an independent approved laboratory to ensure that it meets the following criteria when packed:
• ≥ 85 mg/kg (or ppm) methylglyoxal (MGO)
• ≥ 170 mg/kg (or ppm) dihydroxyacetone (DHA)
• ≥ 50 mg/kg (or ppm) leptosperin

Australian Manuka honey blends
Australian Manuka honeys that meet the above criteria, but at lower levels, can be defined as multifloral Australian Manuka honey blends.

Australian Manuka honey labelling guidelines

Authenticated Australian Manuka honey carrying the AMHA logo must include the following in a prominent position on the product label:
• Sourced from Australian Leptospermum plants, and
• MGO content.
MGO content can be included as the exact value in mg/kg or ppm, or as a whole number followed by a ‘+’ symbol, which signifies the minimum MGO level in the batch in mg/kg (or ppm). For example, a sample with 123 mg/kg MGO can be labelled as: MGO 123, or MGO 100+.

References

Cokcetin, N, Pappalardo, M, Campbell, L, Brooks, P, Carter, D, Blair, S & Harry, E (2016). The Antibacterial Activity of Australian Leptospermum Honey Correlates with Methylglyoxal Levels. PLoS One, vol. 11, no. 12, p. e0167780.
Forst J and Forst G (accessed March 20, 2018). Leptospermum, Atlas of Living Australia
http://bie.ala.org.au/species/http://id.biodiversity.org.au/node/apni/8499083
Moar, N (1985). Pollen analysis of New Zealand honey. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, 28:1, 39-70.
Molan, P & Russell, K (1988). Non-peroxide antibacterial activity in some New Zealand honeys. J. Apic. Res.27: 62–67.