Members update’s – April 2011

Members update’s – April 2011

The Executive is very pleased to present the second update for 2011. This update is aimed to provide some helpful information on HydroxyMethylFurfuryl (HMF), the control of test reports issued by laboratories, and the issues surrounding “passing off” and some marketing notes

Best wishes

The AMHA Executive

Annual General Meeting 2011

The next AMHA AGM is to be held on Monday 27th June 2011 at the Carbine Room, Waipuna Hotel & Conference Centre, 58 Waipuna Road, Mount Wellington, Auckland. The meeting will commence at 2.00 pm. The normal agenda of the AGM is approval of the minutes of the previous AGM, approval of audited financials, presentation of the Chairperson’s report and business plan, then election of Executive (three positions available). As this is a key time when most licence holders are gathered, we will be putting on some twenty minute educational segments; this will include construction and management of brand equity.

Laboratory Certificates

  • A laboratory test certificate is a controlled document.
  • It is signed by the laboratory technician and a verifying agent.
  • All laboratory certificates need to be in the control of the company to which it has been issued.
  • Any copy of this document needs to be stamped with a red copy sticker.
  • The certificate should only be presented in direct reference to the product tested.
  • A record of all copies should be kept, and when the batch is finally sold all copies of the certificate need to be returned and/or destroyed.
  • A standard operating procedure (SOP) should be in place to manage this.

Some certificates have been found in the marketplace that are not in control, don’t represent the batch being sold, and have been altered by a third party. Any alteration to an original certificate raises serious questions.


AMHA is now concentrating on another of its quality standards, the level of HMF in honey and will include HMF testing in all future market audits.

We have had two incidents where licence holders have purchased product in good faith and have not tested for HMF, to then find the NPA level of the honey decreasing well within the shelf life of the product. If you had no control over the harvesting, storage or manufacturing of the bulk honey you are purchasing, we strongly recommend you test for HMF before finalising your purchase agreement. It should be noted the two companies that were caught with high HMF product have acted in the best interests of the consumer and the UMF® trademark. The Association thanks them for their approach in what can be a difficult situation.

The following is some basic information on HMF and how to test for it.

Definition of HMF (HydroxyMethylFurfural)


  • HMF is formed by the breakdown of fructose in the presence of an acid
  • HMF occurs naturally in most honeys and usually increases with the age and heat treatment of honey
  • it can be used as an indicator of heat and storage changes in honey or adulteration through addition of the chemical marker Methylglyoxal
  • heat increases the speed of this reaction
  • the increase in speed is exponential with increasing heat
  • HMF’s occurrence and accumulation in honey is variable depending on honey type


HMF is used to indicate of heating or storage at elevated temperatures. It was first used (circa 1908) as an indicator of the adulteration of honey with invert syrups (syrups of glucose and fructose). For example, cane sugar (sucrose) is “inverted” by heating with a food acid, and this process creates HMF.

It was quickly identified that heated natural honey also had higher levels of HMF and therefore the interest switched from being an indicator of adulteration, to an indicator of heating and storage changes. Note that high levels of HMF (greater than 100 mg/kg) may indicate heating, storage changes or adulteration with inverted sugars.

Fresh natural honey can have varying levels of HMF. This is normally below 1 mg/kg but levels rise quickly at ambient temperatures above 20°C. It is noteworthy that beehive temperatures can rise to over 37°C during summer’s main honey crop. HMF is usually below 10 mg/kg in freshly extracted honey. Levels higher than this may indicate excessive heating during the extraction process.


40 mg/kg is the maximum level permissible under the AMHA Licence and in the EU for table honey.

From: Codex Alimentarius standard for honey 12 1981

The hydroxymethylfurfural content of honey after processing and/or blending shall not be more than 40 mg/kg. However, in the case of honey of declared origin from countries or regions with tropical ambient temperatures, and blends of these honeys, the HMF content shall not be more than 80 mg/kg.”

Where to Test for HMF

You can ask either of the two New Zealand approved laboratories to split your samples and send for HMF testing, or you can take a representative sample yourself and send to:

131 Boundary Road
Blockhouse Bay
PO Box 41, Shortland Street
Auckland 1140
Phone: 09 626 8200
Fax: 09 626 8282

Inter-Laboratory Programme

Within the next two weeks the initial run of test results between the participating laboratories will be in and independently analysed. As soon as this is completed we will be announcing and promoting these laboratories as verification agents for honey in the market. The Singapore and UK laboratories are able to perform HMF testing as well.

It is expected, as soon as this announcement is made, there will be a rush of verification testing as the consumer will be empowered to do their own testing. Please be aware that if the consumer purchases product believing it has Non-Peroxide Activity, regardless of the branding (UMF®, active, bioactive, chemical markers) and does not contain the advertised level of activity, then there may be a prima facie case against those involved.

As a licence holder, if this was to occur, the following excerpts of the licence agreement are relevant to this initial situation:

during the term of this Agreement or at any time following its expiry or termination for any reason, the Licensee will not do any act or thing which, in the opinion of the AMHA Executive, acting reasonably, adversely affects or prejudices the goodwill, reputation or intellectual property rights in the Trade Marks and the UMF Rating;


By using the Trade Marks and the UMF Rating the Licensee acknowledges and accepts that it is subject to the Quality Standards and Batch Requirements and agrees to the testing being undertaken by any Testing Laboratory. The Licensee shall not, for any reason whatsoever, dispute the Quality Standards, Batch Requirements, the Testing Laboratories selected or the test results. Furthermore, the Licensee acknowledges that the tests undertaken by any Testing Laboratory shall be conclusive evidence of the non peroxide antibacterial activity level.

Again, we remind you that: If the consumer purchases a product with full knowledge of the condition of the product and is then unsatisfied, Caveat Emptor. In this situation, however, the consumer is totally reliant on the product label to inform them of the condition and quality thereof. It is therefore the responsibility of the supplier to accurately and honestly label their product.

(Paraphrased from the Court of Appeal)


Marketing Points

Here some responses to marketing materials currently in the market place:


Methylglyoxal does not equal NPA.

Correlation does not equal causality.

  1. Honeys other than New Zealand Manuka (leptospermum scoparium) have traces of MGO
  2. MGO can be artificially added to any honey
  3. Can be enhanced through heating but becomes unstable
  4. It’s not the sole antibacterial factor1

Methylglyoxal, also called pyruvaldehyde or 2-oxopropanal (CH3-CO-CH=O or C3H4O2) is the aldehyde form of pyruvic acid. It has two carbonyl groups, so it is a dicarbonyl compound. Methylglyoxal is both an aldehyde and a ketone.

1. (FASEB Journal, Kwakman Paulus HS, ‘how honey kills bacteria’, ISSN 08926638)“after neutralising H2O2 and MGO, honey retained substantial antibacterial activity

NPA Non Peroxide activity

NPA does not equal UMF®

Measurement of the antibacterial activity of honey after hydrogen peroxide is removed by the addition of catalyse enzymes, as compared to the phenol standard.

NPA is a measurement of bioactivity.

There are other factors which inhibit the growth of bacteria, such as acidity, sugar content, enzymes etc.

A lot more research is required to understand what is fully going on with this natural product and how it works.


A quality Trademark.

Registered in all major trading countries.

Is an evolving standard, constantly improving with research.

The only standard independently verified in the marketplace.

It includes:

  • Independent audits of all facilities
  • Independent audits of NPA label claim
  • Independent guidelines and rulings on any promotional claims
  • A commissioner to protect the interests of the brand
  • Independent, full traceability of product
  • Internationally recognised testing to verify levels of unique antibacterial activity
  • Internationally recognised testing of product to ensure it is natural and unadulterated
  • An expanding understanding as to what supports the NPA activity as discovered included in the quality standards