More than you might think !
Sun cream and Manuka honey are the only two products on sale in your local supermarket, which display an activity number on the front of pack. The higher the number the stronger the activity, or so consumers are told !
There is huge confusion over the labeling of sun cream and Manuka honey and both industries are being lobbied to encourage manufactures to use one clear rating system.
With sun cream there has been significant confusion between SPF, UVB and UVA ratings. Recently the industry has recognized that change is required and manufactures are now starting to align their front of pack rating system to create one generic message. This has been combined with increased consumer education and press coverage, which is now starting to make a real difference.
With Manuka honey, the story is not so positive and we seem to be a long way from resolving the issue. In todays market we see ratings such as NPA, UMF, Active, Total Active, Peroxide Active, K-Factor, MGO and many more. Each rating system could refer to a different measurement. Some rating systems are actually protected trademarks. The numerous rating systems refer to various compounds, be it Peroxide Activity, Non Peroxide Activity, Total Activity or Methylglyoxal content. Some manufactures are even actively blending in other honey variants that are naturally high in peroxide count (Honeydew, Rewarewa, bush honey, Kanuka), to achieve higher on pack activity ratings.
It is clear that the Manuka honey industry is confused and desperately needs regulating and more importantly the consumer needs increased protection. The New Zealand Government has recognized that change is required and in July 2014, they published their “Interim Labeling Guide for Manuka honey”. Although this was seen as a positive step forward, the guidelines have been criticized for being to open and protective of the current brands, trademarks, land owners and manufactures in New Zealand. The industry is still awaiting final guidelines.
So what is the answer for Manuka Honey in Europe?
The FSA and Trading Standards could enforce EU labeling legislation and or The Food Safety Act 1990. By implementing this existing legislation, the confusion would be removed overnight. In summary to sell food in the UK:
- Labels must not be misleading
- There should be no nutritional or health claims on packs of honey or advertising material.
- The only front of pack rating must refer directly to the compound in the product being measured (In the case of Manuka honey this would be Methylglyoxal)
With increased lobbying of government departments, it is hoped that the FSA will implement internal policy and resolve the confusion on our honey fixtures once and for all.
Following all the confusion surrounding Manuka honey, Andrew Thain, Director of Family Foods Ltd, decided to collate all his knowledge and data references on Manuka Honey and create a new website www.manukanews.com.
Andrew explains “ManukaNews.com has been designed as a one stop information shop for buyers and consumers of Manuka honey. The website is easy to navigate and will contain all the latest news and reports about Manuka honey, from around the world. I am a strong voice within the retail sector and want to be recognised for leading the Manuka industry forward in the UK.”
The Manuka honey industry in the UK is currently worth around £24 million per annum.
Andrew went on to explain, “There is a mixture of quality standards. Some Manuka honey brands blend in non-manuka honey varieties such as Honeydew, Clover and Kanuka honey and other Manuka brands include the common Peroxide activity in there activity calculations and some do both! These two techniques ultimately reduce the overall cost of the Manuka honey. This makes it extremely difficult for the brands who endorse the New Zealand Labelling Guidelines and EU Labelling law and rate their Manuka honey activity based on its Methylglyoxal content.”
It is clear the Manuka industry has a number of challenges to overcome. It is recognised that these challenges become even more difficult when long standing practices and trademarks are involved. The Sun Cream industry has proven that they can take the heat out the argument and focus on protecting both their consumers and their industry long term. Lets hope the Manuka industry doesn’t get burnt.
Media Contact Details
Andrew Thain, Family Foods