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Scientific experts agree on robust test for manuka honey

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Scientific experts agree that measuring the level of the active compound - methylglyoxal - in manuka honey is a robust test of its anti-bacterial activity.

"Testing for methylglyoxal is a clear and unambiguous way of letting consumers know that the antibacterial activity of the honey is the genuine, special type of activity for which manuka honey is famous," says Professor Peter Molan, director of the University of Waikato's honey research unit.

Professor Thomas Henle of the Technical University of Dresden, who identified methylglyoxal in 2006 as the compound responsible for manuka honey's unique antibacterial properties, also says testing for methylglyoxal levels in manuka honey is a reliable, quantitative method.

"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."

The methylglyoxal rating system measures actual levels of the compound responsible for manuka honey's antibacterial activity, methylglyoxal.

Both experts agreed that the special activity of manuka honey was its non-peroxide, antibacterial activity and that the level of that activity was in line with the level of methlyglyoxal.

However, both professors said the correlation between the two was approximate and should be used only as a guide for rating manuka honey.

Professor Henle, whose visit to New Zealand was sponsored by Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd, recently outlined his group's new research into manuka honey in lectures at the Universities of Waikato and Auckland

The Dresden study examined the possible health risks of consumption of naturally-occurring methylglyoxal in manuka honey.

Professor Henle said the research showed unambiguously that methyglyoxal in manuka honey was not absorbed into the body and did not pose a dietary risk for consumers. Methyglyoxal was rapidly degraded to lactic acid in the small and large intestine.

"Our research shows that dietary methylglyoxal in manuka honey is stable in conditions of the mouth, throat and stomach where it has antibacterial activity, killing "bugs" that can cause infection and that it is safe to eat."

Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd is the only company worldwide to market MGO? Manuka Honey products, with certified levels of methlyglyoxal.

The company has led the way in developing an accurate testing regime to measure methylglyoxal levels in manuka honey. The methylglyoxal content is shown on the label and is measured using a reliable testing system.

Manuka Health's New Zealand extraction facility has ISO 17025 certification and accreditation by International Accreditation New Zealand (IAANZ). Its test method has been cross-validated with the test method used at Dresden Technical University's Institute of Food Chemistry.

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