15 October 2015

A beacon of light was shone on one of the country’s top exports today, as a new method for indicating whether or not a product is Manuka Honey was unveiled at Parliament today.

UMF Honey Association (UMFHA) spokesperson John Rawcliffe said the organisation in partnership with Analytica Laboratories and Comvita Innovation, had developed a portable fluorescent unit that could offer a simple method for easily indicating whether or not a product is genuine Manuka Honey.

“While the units are a prototype at this stage, once in production they could potentially safeguard consumers worldwide and provide a future foundation of continued protection of the industry,” John said.

“The units have been developed here in New Zealand, with a team from Auckland University comprising Dr Jonathan Stephens, Dr Ralf Schlothauer and PHD students Jessie Bong and Katie Aitkenhead playing an integral part of the research programme.”

New to the Manuka Honey industry, John said the units could be a “game-changer” for the industry.

“The search has been on for some time now for a method of detecting the signature compounds found in Manuka Honey.
“New Zealand Manuka Honey contains two signature compounds which have been identified in laboratory — Leptosperin and another which has a patent pending. They are both fluorescent and responsible for the majority of light signals measured at appropriate wavelengths.

“Fluorescence testing of Manuka Honey has, therefore, been identified as a method for indicating whether or not a product is from the nectar collected from Leptospermum Scoparium – New Zealand Manuka plants.”

John said while the use of fluorescence techniques is new to the New Zealand Manuka Honey industry, similar light technology methods are being successfully used commercially in other parts of the world.

“To get a reading, the Manuka Honey is first diluted in a reaction mixture and the signal read using the light unit.  The honey type is then calculated, by simply applying the reading to an established database. The readout will indicate whether or not the product tested is in fact Manuka Honey.”

John said both of the fluorescent compounds found in Manuka Honey are unique and cannot be purchased as stock chemicals.

“Synthesis of these compounds to adulterate other honey-types is not feasible, as it would cost significantly much more than the retail value of the honey.

“While the units are currently in prototype phase, the intention is to ultimately reassure consumers that the Manuka Honey they purchase is authentic and give those working in the industry a quick method for indicating whether it is Manuka Honey.”

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