Manuka honey has long been heralded for its functional benefits in health and taste, but questions around using the ingredient can arise due to definitions of deeming it as being genuine ‘Manuka’.
Paul Kordic, the principal of Cullen Mcleod, and Andrew Robinson from Blossom Health, are members of the Australian Manuka Honey Association. The organisation is dedicated to educating the food and beverage industry on authentically-sourced Manuka honey, and note how transparency is the best way forward when including it in new products.
FoodBev spoke with Kordic and Robinson to discover more about the correct approach to using Manuka honey.
What is the Australian Manuka Honey Association?
The Australian Manuka Honey Association represents a union of aligned producers working together to ensure that consumers have access to the resources they need to educate and inform themselves about Manuka honey from Australia. We see the issues that arise surrounding food safety and consumer trust, product authenticity and recognise that there is an increase in people wanting to know where their food is coming from and what it is made of. By working with leading scientific researchers and government departments, we are able to add value to the whole industry, and that is what we do.
What makes Manuka honey genuine?
Manuka, like all honey, is made by bees from the nectar of flowers. For it to be considered a genuine Manuka honey, it should be sourced from Leptospermum Spp, which is usually found growing wild in Australia or New Zealand, as this is the original range and evolutionary home range of the word Manuka and the plants it describes. The presence of certain chemical markers and a traceable origin help to authenticate and protect the genuine identity of Manuka honey.
How can consumers become misinformed about Manuka honey?
The first and most important answer to this is obviously about strength and potency. There is a range of different systems used, many of which have limited scientific relevance. Standards such as Total Activity or BioActive (5+/10+ etc) do not provide a clear indication of the therapeutic benefits, as they are highly variable methods prone to interpretation errors.
Antibacterial potency and the therapeutic benefits of Manuka honey are what drive the value, and measuring the strength with methylglyoxal (MGO) is the most accurate way to determine this. As with any active ingredient, the amount of MGO should be declared on the jar, in mg/kg.
How can food companies combat misinformation about Manuka honey?
Working on the big picture is always a good way to start. The trick is to make a contribution toward standardised systems of measurement based on robust science. This includes making sure to work off recognised standards and requires product tests and certificates of authenticity that validate the product as authentic, using established industry criteria.
What functional benefits can Manuka honey bring for food products?
Aside from obvious choices as a natural sweetener, honey has emollient properties that help to bring lasting moisture to baked goods and a reduced GI, with respect to pure sucrose. It is hygroscopic, so absorbs moisture from the air. Manuka honey adds to this the antibacterial and therapeutic benefits referred to above, which can be utilised in products such as cough drops, health shots and apple cider vinegar.
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