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Is That Manuka Honey Really Raw?

Author: Yusuf Wasway,

Posted on August 25 2021

A basic breakdown of the main honey grading systems in use to help you select the perfect jar of manuka honey.

 

“UMF, MGO, or K-Factor?” is a question often asked by many manuka honey enthusiasts. This question is a vital one - especially since raw manuka honey is available in many concentrations, with each one serving a specific purpose.

 

To pick the right kind of manuka honey, you need to know two things: what you need it for (the purpose) and how the different grading systems work. This will help you determine the strength of raw honey you need.

 

If you’re wondering whether your jar of manuka honey is raw, check the label for a rating. By doing so, you can make sure that you’re buying a quality product that is pure and high in natural goodness.

 

While you’re checking the label, having an understanding of the many grading systems and knowing exactly what they measure can truly transform the whole experience of buying raw honey.

 

You’re also much more likely to make a well-informed buying decision. That means you get to walk out of the store with a honey jar that fits your beauty, health, and therapeutic needs.

 

In this post, we will be discussing the various honey grading systems, why they exist, and how they work. This will enable you to work out whether that jar of manuka honey is really raw and packs natural nutrients.

 

Manuka Honey Grading Systems

 

There are many ways to check the quality of manuka honey. With manuka honey, quality matters a lot. Honey producers often use different indicators to convey the quality of the honey they’re selling.

 

Most indicators work on the same principle; they measure the concentration of different bioactives (healthful compounds also known as “manuka markers”) present in the honey. The higher the ratio of these compounds, the more potent your honey.

 

To find out the strength of your honey, check its label. Most honey producers make sure they mention that in an inset on the packaging. Your manuka rating will be most likely typed in the form of a few upper case letters and digits.

 

There are three main manuka grading systems used around the world, including New Zealand, where this specialty honey has its origins. These include:

 

  • MGO (methylglyoxal)

  • UMF (unique manuka factor)

  • K-Factor (pollen count)

 

Let’s look at each of these grading systems in detail to understand what they mean and how they work.

 

What is MGO?

 

MGO is a well-established honey grading system. It scans mainly for methylglyoxal, a special bioactive compound that occurs naturally in manuka honey. The MGO rating of any honey measures the amount of methylglyoxal it contains.

 

Knowing the methylglyoxal concentration of your honey is vital when you’re using it for a specific purpose. This manuka marker is what makes manuka honey so special. The compound gives honey its unique anti-germ properties.

 

As a general rule, the higher the MGO number, the richer your honey is in methylglyoxal and the better its overall quality.

 

  • Premium varieties of raw manuka honey (for skincare and therapeutic use) are graded at MGO 514 - MGO 1200.

 

  • Moderate grade, also known as ‘therapeutic grade honey’ has a count ranging from MGO 263 - MGO 514. It is included in the diet for good health - but for shorter durations and with some care.

 

  • Table grade varieties have an MGO count between MGO 83-263 and are perfect for everyday consumption. Use them in food and beverages

 

At Nature’s Blends, we use the MGO rating system to test the cold-extracted honey. Every jar of our raw manuka honey is a testament to age-old wisdom, skilled beekeeping, and the goodness of Mother Nature - and MGO standards help us make sure of that.

 

After harvest, our experts conduct tests to screen the manuka honey for methylglyoxal levels. That’s how we deliver on our promise of bringing you the finest manuka honey nature has to offer.


What is UMF? 

 

UMF is short for the unique manuka factor. It is another grading system used to determine the strength and quality of manuka honey.

 

The UMF is an advanced grading system that was developed by the New Zealand-based UMF Honey Association. In principle, UMF works the same way the MGO grading system does: it screens for natural markers that characterize manuka honey.

 

Like the MGO system, the UMF takes into account the methylglyoxal levels of manuka honey. But it also includes a count of other bioactives like leptosperin, DHA, and HMF. Additionally, the UMF also factors in non-peroxide activity (NPA) 

 

To come up with a UMF rating, manuka honey needs to be tested for multiple ingredients. The UMF number is based on the values of all the natural compounds (manuka markers) combined.

 

That’s why the UMF is considered a wholistic indicator of the quality as well as the purity of the manuka honey. The higher the UMF rating of manuka honey, the more authentic and potent it is.

 

Here are some of the UMF potencies and their uses:

 

  • Ultra-Premium Grade with ratings ranging from UMF 15+ to UMF 25+, (for cosmetic use)

 

  • Premium Grade honey rated between UMF 10+ to UMF 15+ (for health/food use)

 

  • Certified Authentic raw manuka honey with a count of UMF5+ to UMF 10+ (every day)

 

What is K-Factor?

 

The K-Factor is another way to measure the potency of manuka honey. It is an independent grading system that takes stock of many attributes of the honey to assess its nature.

 

But unlike the MGO and UMF, K-Factor does not factor in the levels of the many bioactive compounds present in the honey.

 

Instead, the K-factor system is different in that it spells out a series of conditions. To have a K-factor rating, your manuka honey needs to meet these standards.

 

These set conditions ensure that any given batch of manuka honey is:

 

  • Raw, natural, and unpasteurized
  • Sourced from New Zealand
  • Devoid of antibiotics, pesticides, and glyphosates
  • Non-GMO
  • Traceable from comb to home

 

There are two main K-factor potencies available in the market:

 

  • K-Factor 16: Raw manuka honey that is mainly monoflower (made exclusively from the Manuka bush native to New Zealand)

 

  • K-Factor 12: A multi-flower variety of manuka honey (made from a blend of manuka and other floral plants)

 

Manuka Markers

 

Manuka honey contains many bioactive compounds. Some of these naturally occurring chemicals are responsible for the exceptional properties of honey. Other such chemicals are present only in honey produced from manuka bush.

 

These chemical markers are called ‘manuka markers’ and honey producers often check their levels for quality assurance purposes.

 

Manuka markers are of interest to both the producers and the consumers. In most cases (though not all), the compounds being tested for also give the honey its powerful properties.

 

The quantity of some manuka markers can also be an indicator of the quality of the batch. The higher the levels of such chemical markers, the more authentic your honey is.

 

Given below are some of the most common chemical markers manuka honey is tested for:

 

  • Methylglyoxal (MG)

 

The most popular marker, methylglyoxal is a special compound responsible for the antibacterial prowess of manuka honey. It is employed as a marker in both the MGO and UMF grading systems

 

  • Leptosperin

A natural compound that is found only in manuka honey. Leptosperin is a unique identifier for manuka honey. UMF grading system includes separate tests for leptosperin levels.

 

  • Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA)

 

The NPA marker is a measure of non-peroxide activity in honey. Active varieties have greater anti-septic potential.

 

Testing for NPA is vital under the UMF grading system. In fact, the NPA value is directly related to the UMF rating.

 

If a batch of manuka honey has an NPA of 10, it will have a rating of UMF 10+

 

           

  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

 

Another natural chemical that serves as a marker under the UMF manuka grading system. DHA is also a precursor for methylglyoxal (MG) so it also helps in assessing the overall MG levels of the honey.

 

  • 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)

 

An organic compound that is formed when manuka honey is exposed to excessive heat during the harvest, processing, or storage. The final UMF rating of your honey also depends on its HMF count.

 

Apart from these main identifiers, there are also many more markers and standards. Also, note that the K-factor grading method is very different from the other two. Unlike MGO and UMF, it doesn’t measure the levels of any bioactive present in manuka.

 

 

Check this chart for a comparison of the MGO, UMF, and K-factor systems and the common manuka markers they measure:

 

 

Grading System

Manuka Marker(s)

MGO

●       Methylglyoxal (MG) 

 

UMF

●       MG (methylglyoxal)

●       NPA

●       Leptosperin

●       DHA

●       HMF

●       Purity

K-Factor

●       Purity

●       Active Enzymes

●       Pollen Count (70% and higher)

●       DHA

●       PH Levels

●       Antioxidant Levels

●       Phenolic Compounds

 

 

 

Equivalence (MGO, UMF & NPA)

 

MGO and UMF are two separate systems we use to check the quality of manuka honey. They measure different manuka markers.

 

MGO focuses only on methylglyoxal levels but UMF factors in the quantities of many other biochemicals in manuka.

 

Although MGO and UMF measure different things, there is still a relationship between their values - mainly because they both measure methylglyoxal.

 

This makes it very easy to convert UMF values to MGO and vice versa. Consult the chart below to compare MGO ratings with UMF. The NPA ratings have also been included to help you convert.

 

 

MGO

UMF

NPA

83+

5+

5

263+

10+

10

514+

15+

15

696+

18+

18

829+

20+

20

1200+

25+

25

 

 

 

The Final Word: Which System is Better?

 

MGO, UMF, and K-factor all three can be useful in helping us determine the quality of manuka honey.

 

These are different grading systems that measure specific chemical markers (as in the case of MGO and UMF) or outline criteria (as in K-Factor) for quality assurance purposes.

 

Since these systems measure separate things they cannot be compared with each other directly. One indicator is not better than the others. In fact, all three are useful determiners in their own right.

 

What Honey Do We Stock?

 

Nature’s Blends stocks MGO 83+, 263+, 514+, and 800+.

 

Our exclusive raw honey range features everything manuka - from premium-grade varieties and power blends (see black seed manuka mix) to delicious and creamy table honey fit for everyday use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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