Minister's manuka honey claims not backed by science

Wednesday 28 August 2013, 11:06AM

By Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd.



Manuka Health’s Chief Executive Kerry Paul has challenged Government claims there are “no clear scientific markers” to measure manuka honey’s unique anti-bacterial activity.

Scientists in New Zealand and in Germany agree the key non-peroxide compound – methylglyoxal – responsible for the antibacterial activity of manuka honey, can be measured and quantified, he says.

“Manuka Health has led the way in developing a robust scientific method to quantify the actual amount of methylglyoxal in our manuka honey products,” says Mr Paul.

“Our labelling system, based on methylglyoxal levels, provides consumers with a reliable way of buying genuine manuka honey with the activity for which it is famous around the world.”

He was responding to comments by Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye that part of the manuka honey labelling difficulty was that “there aren’t any clear scientific markers”.

“This is not supported by scientists who work in this field,” Mr Paul says.

Professor Thomas Henle, head of the Institute of Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Dresden, identified methylglyoxal in 2006 as the dominant, measurable ingredient responsible for the antibacterial activity of manuka honey.

When he visited New Zealand last year, Professor Henle said testing for methylglyoxal levels in manuka honey was a reliable, quantitative method to measure its special activity.

“A labelling system has to be scientifically sound, based on a method which is published and can be used in any laboratory. This is definitely the case for methylglyoxal manuka honey labelling,” Professor Henle said.

Manuka Health exports a wide range of MGO® labelled manuka honey products to more than 45 countries, including the United Kingdom. It has about 20 percent global market share. 

It is the only company worldwide to market manuka honey, which has been tested and certified to contain at least 100mg/kg of nutritional methylglyoxal, the minimum level required for any health benefits.

Mr Paul says consumers should check the methylglyoxal content on the product label to be confident they are buying manuka honey with the activity for which it is famous.

“Manuka Health takes a rigorous approach to managing supply from our Wairarapa beekeeping operation to the shelf, to guarantee the quality of the finished product, he says.

The company’s manufacturing facility and distribution centre based in Te Awamutu is ISO 9001 and New Zealand Food Safety Authority Risk Management Programme accredited. The company operates it own laboratory for testing bioactives and quality parameters under ISO 17025 certification.

Professor Henle visited New Zealand in March 2012 as a guest of Manuka Health to give public lectures at the Universities of Waikato and Auckland.