Manuka Honey UMF and MGO Quality Standards

Manuka honey UMF, or “unique manuka factor”, is a standard by which the antibacterial strength of honey from the manuka tree of New Zealand and southeastern Australia is measured. Developed by the Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) to guage medical efficacy, the UMF standard is currently the only worldwide system that measures the antibacterial potency of honey. Although all types of honey contain antibacterial and antifungal properties due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide, recent medical research has identified special compounds such as methylglyoxal as the active components in high-grade manuka honey that give this unique substance extra antibacterial properties. The UMF properties of the manuka tree, which are phytochemically produced and found in the nectar of the flower, are consumed by bees and are hence contained in the honey they produce. Only the highest quality honey has been designated by the AMHA as superior enough to warrant a medically-significant UMF rating.

Manuka Honey with UMF labels are carefully tested to ensure they are high grade

Laboratory studies carried out by the Honey Research Unit at New Zealand’s Waikato University have confirmed the medical efficacy of high-grade manuka honey in combating a wide array of harmful bacteria (including highly resistant strains such as the MRSA “superbug”), making it helpful for relieving the symptoms of stomach ulcers and gastritis when ingested.  Applied topically, medical-grade manuka honey can help facilitate the healing of wounds, burns, skin ulcers, cracked skin, and boils. Its antibacterial properties also make it effective for the relief of sore throats and for aiding oral hygiene. Unlike the medical properties of clover honey which are easily destroyed by light, heat, and water, the antibacterial properties of UMF honey have been proven to be quite stable, helping to ensure the preservation of the manuka tree’s medically-effective compounds.

The UMF designation guarantees that a product contains antibacterial properties. The label will indicate whether a particular batch of honey is of UMF quality and the minimum rating it is designated with. A product must contain a UMF rating of at least 10 to be considered medical grade. Honey with a rating below this may still have antibacterial properties due to the hydrogen peroxide-producing enzyme that is found in all honey, but only honey with a rating of 10 or higher is of a grade endorsed by The University of Waikato’s Honey Research Unit as medically significant. Honey with a rating of 16 or higher is considered especially superior and is the most sought after for medical use.

To ascertain whether manuka honey is medical grade, the UMF rating must be determined through laboratory testing, the guidelines of which have been outlined by the Honey Research Unit of Waikato University. This procedure produces a “total activity rating” which indicates the combined presence of both hydrogen peroxide and UMF compounds. To determine the actual UMF rating, a special hydrogen peroxide-removing catalyst is added, leaving only the special compounds, which are then detected and measured. Because the antibacterial potency of manuka honey will vary from one batch to the next, each one has to be tested to ensure product quality.

“MGO” – A More Recent Measurement of Anti-Bacterial Effectiveness

The methylglyoxal (MGO) measurement was developed in 2007 and is a more modern method of measuring anti-bacterial effectiveness. It was developed at the University of Dresden by Professor Henle’s research group. This rating system measures the concentration of Methylglyoxal, which has been confirmed as the dominant anti-bacterial constituent of Manuka honey. The amount of Methyglyoxal milligrams per kilogram, for example 100mg of would be expressed as MGO 100 on manuka honey jars.

The MGO certification is a trademarked term that is owned by Manuka Health New Zealand ltd and they are the only licensed brand that uses it on their labels. Their ratings start at a minimum of 100 mg/kg which is the minimum antibacterial content required for health benefits.

UMF vs MGO – What is Best for Consumers?

Manuka Honey UMF and MGO Comparison Table

UMF 10+

MGO 100

UMF 16+

MGO 250

UMF 20+

MGO 400

UMF 25+

MGO 550

UMF and MGO ratings have long been debated in academic circles and is it widely recognized that the MGO designation is more easily understood by consumers as it measures the actual anti-bacterial component whereas UMF measures anti-bacterial activity compared to a common disinfectant. For example, Methyglyoxal with a concentration of more than 100 mg/kg is the equivalent of antibacterial UMF rating is 10+. However, a UMF of 20+ does not mean there is 200 milligrams of methyglyoxal, infact the equivalent MGO is 400.

Due to the confusion about the two different ratings and the actual effectiveness of the manuka honey you are purchasing, it is important to buy only from reputed brands to ensure that the honey has been accurately tested so their ratings can be trusted. For example, there have been instances where brands have labeled their honey as active or bio-active and, upon laboratory testing, have been discovered to only contain 10 – 15 mg/kg of methyglyoxal.

If you are looking to buy manuka honey, it is recommend that you take a look at our manuka honey reviews to ensure you are choosing a quality product with the proper antibacterial content for health benefits.