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Updates on Manuka - Standard

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Surprise surprise It looks like they are also going to introduce another layer of paperwork

 

 

and proposed measures to improve traceability of honey from the hive to processor.

 

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At conference we were informed that there would be a process of chemical markers first, and that they had started with 12 and reduced that down to 5, "some" which showed it was manuka and "some" showed it was not. So a 2 - 3 split for it is/isn't manuka. MPI have also indicated that MG and DHA will not be indicators, neither will leptosperin. I'm not aware of them having named any markers so far, or given any information (testing methods, amounts in nectar/honey, variance over time/temperature/acidity/moisture etc).

 

This was to be followed by DNA analysis using quantitative PCR, primarily to identify the L.scoparium/K. ericoides split because somewhere, what was commonly known as manuka honey in New Zealand (L.scoparium and K.ericoides honey) was no longer. The first paper I have seen on this technique applied to honey (although to be fair I haven't been looking closely) is this one: Using DNA Metabarcoding to Identify the Floral Composition of Honey: A New Tool for Investigating Honey Bee Foraging Preferences. The title says it all. i.e. new / experimental, and the outcome in the paper is not quite what one expects when we talk of DNA i.e. black/white, pass/fail. I'm also not sure how the new 10 Kunzea species and soon to be 5 new NZ Leptospermum species will work with this. In 1983 Leptospermum ericoides was changed to Kunzea ericoides, and now has been changed to 10 species of Kunzea in 2014. Now that Leptospermum scoparium is rumoured to be changed to 5 species of Leptospermum, will the "true" manuka please stand up? PCR works by introducing a primer into the mix with a section of target DNA one is looking for. Will this DNA primer be unique to all the 5 NZ Leptospermums and none of the 83 Australian ones (with the exception of L. scoparium from Australia)?

 

These are two techniques that are not routinely used anywhere in the World for characterising honey in a standard. This is a concern. However, in a previous post I pointed out most manuka with a UMF 10 rating or less has little chance of being manuka honey under the new standard if MPI get it right with meeting the "wholly or mainly" threshhold. Seems like fertile ground for many "discussions".

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Seems like a total cluster to me :(

 

MPI could very well tip the whole Manuka honey industry on its head and end up with a collapse of the industry.

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Seems like a total cluster to me :(

 

MPI could very well tip the whole Manuka honey industry on its head and end up with a collapse of the industry.

 

Or we could actually end up with a workable standard supported by some high quality testing, which equally could turn things on its head.

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These are two techniques that are not routinely used anywhere in the World for characterising honey in a standard. This is a concern. However, in a previous post I pointed out most manuka with a UMF 10 rating or less has little chance of being manuka honey under the new standard if MPI get it right with meeting the "wholly or mainly" threshhold. Seems like fertile ground for many "discussions".

 

The use of chemical markers for honey identification has 30+ years of robust science behind it, and it's better than anything else we've got.. so why should it be a concern?

 

Also, would you care to elaborate on the UMF10 statement? Without having seen the standard aren't you just scaremongering?

 

 

 

And what would be the cost of this high quality testing and how many labs can do it?

 

There will probably be a handful of labs offering the tests. The chemical marker one could cost anywhere between $50-$200 depending on the complexity.

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The use of chemical markers for honey identification has 30+ years of robust science behind it, and it's better than anything else we've got.. so why should it be a concern?

Plenty of work on chemical markers showing presence of a honey type, yes. And lots of examples of subsequent findings of said chemical marker in other honeys. But the key problem here is proving "wholly or mainly". Chemical markers have the problem that they vary in the nectar and change over time.

DHA/MG are a good example of this. DHA has been recorded in nectar from almost nothing to at least 13,800 ppm in manuka and over 17,000ppm in other Leptospermum species. So, is a fresh honey with 500 ppm of DHA, 100% of a low DHA level manuka, or 5% of a high DHA level manuka? And after a couple of years, when much of it's all gone, is it still manuka?

 

 

Also, would you care to elaborate on the UMF10 statement? Without having seen the standard aren't you just scaremongering?

You list yourself as a researcher - I'd be interested in your comments once you have researched the information I presented here:

Manuka madness and the next snake oil

and here

Manuka madness and the next snake oil

Remember, we are not trying to establish simple presence of manuka honey, we are trying to provide proof of wholly or mainly as required by the Codex honey standard. This is what our trading partners require when they review and accept the merit of the standard, in turn allowing us to continue to sell manuka honey. Both China and the UK have expressed concern at the current position and will not allow this to continue.

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Chemical markers have the problem that they vary in the nectar and change over time.

 

Some chemical markers change over time, but some don't. I've analysed manuka honeys which have been stored in a hot water cupboard for 20+ years, and you can still tell from their chemical profiles that they're manuka honey, plain as day.

 

The state of the science is now such that it is routinely possible to classify real market samples as "probably manuka" or "probably not manuka", but the matter of what constitutes monofloral, or what is "wholly or mainly", is slightly more troublesome.

 

The issue with interpreting the composition of honey based on the nectar is that there is no proven "conversion ratio" between the two. There may well be nectars which have >10,000 mg/kg of DHA (after normalisation to the sugar content), but until you know that 100% of nectar DHA actually ends up as free DHA in honey, you can't compare the two in quite such a facile way.

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The issue with interpreting the composition of honey based on the nectar is that there is no proven "conversion ratio" between the two. There may well be nectars which have >10,000 mg/kg of DHA (after normalisation to the sugar content), but until you know that 100% of nectar DHA actually ends up as free DHA in honey, you can't compare the two in quite such a facile way.

So this comes back to the problem of "how did you know the jars on your shelf were manuka honey in the first place". This has traditionally been done with pollen analysis followed by in rare instances caged hives producing honey. Beekeeper observations of nectar sources are low on the list and studies using this method are usually published as interest only.

 

Nectar samples have more recently become increasingly used (as analytical techniques have improved) to show presence of chemical markers. Like you I agree with the problems related to them. But key in this discussion is that they show a huge variance in their presence in nectar, and there's little research to determine the cause of this variance but one can speculate on genetic, weather, climate, soil, aspect, parasite, insect infestation, browsing influences etc. And if they vary in the nectar, they will vary in the honey. Hence their historical lack of usefulness to determine "wholly or mainly". Saying that DHA's presence in nectar won't translate 100% to DHA in honey is completely ignoring the problem that it varies in the nectar in the first place.

 

However maybe there is a marker unique to L. scoparium (and subsequent L. sp derivatives - botanical review pending) that is always in the nectar at a narrow range of concentration, that is always converted to a final proportion in the honey regardless of the nectar moisture content, acidity, variable enzyme content, ripening time etc. If MPI have found one, good work!

 

Remember that a standard has to be written into legislation. Being "probably" manuka is not a definition that will work. Things like: more than, less than, between these levels, of stated parameters are the stuff that's required.

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key in this discussion is that they show a huge variance in their presence in nectar, and there's little research to determine the cause of this variance

 

I agree that preliminary reports suggest there can be a large variation in marker concentration between different nectars. However, if a kilo of honey is made from how ever many thousand flowers, a very significant averaging effect which will occur, which will suppress a lot of the variance. The notion of further accounting for the variance by using an internal standard compound (to use analytical parlance) would be wonderful, but I think slightly fanciful. I doubt there will be any 'golden bullet' markers (or methods) in this whole saga.

 

As for writing something into legislation, it is trying to make things black-and-white when they are always some shade of grey. You can specify that manuka honey must have a colour of 60+ mm Pfund (for example), but behind that is a whole bunch of statistics, and functions that describe the probability of being correct as a function of the measured variable. The best case scenario is that a set of tests are found with can describe manuka honey as being monofloral with 95% or 99% confidence. It's a question of statistics, and the answer to that question always contains "probably".

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However, if a kilo of honey is made from how ever many thousand flowers, a very significant averaging effect which will occur, which will suppress a lot of the variance.

Sorry, this is wishful thinking. Variability is much wider than any one batch of honey. Already we have notions of manuka sub species that have more or less DHA and material for significant plantations selected on that basis. Some say their manuka doesn't produce pollen in the honey, and, post nectar collection, take the example of glucose oxidase. It produces the gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide in honey and is most active when the moisture content is high before the honey is ripened. If ripening takes some time due to high relative humidity and high temperatures, then the acidity will likely end up higher - and so its effect on chemical markers. And the amount of glucose oxidase introduced by the bee is itself altered by nectar concentration, amount of nectar in the flower and distance from the hive. So weather conditions and crop intensity in one area could have a different outcome on the acidiy and peroxide levels in the honey and thus chemical markers than another area.

 

All these factors (and probably others) have the potential to markedly alter chemical markers in different regions and seaonal time frames.

 

For a chemical marker to be useful to the wholly or mainly requirement, it has to have a narrow range in the nectar, this to be consistent when converted to honey, be invariable due to climate, soil, genetic variant, etc etc, not occur in any other plants (anywhere in the World) and be stable over many years maintaining its proportionality throughout the life of the product.

 

The fact that there is no uncontested chemical marker built into a monofloral honey standard in the World is a testament to the difficulty of this task. Lets hope that MPI have cracked it!

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If ripening takes some time due to high relative humidity and high temperatures, then the acidity will likely end up higher - and so its effect on chemical markers

 

Are you suggesting that the concentration of chemical makers will be affected by acidity? Because that is wild and unfounded speculation. Perhaps some could, but then they wouldn't be very good markers. The whole point would be to choose compounds which don't suffer from such issues. And once again, without knowing what they will be, I don't see how you can anticipate what the issues with them will be.

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Are you suggesting that the concentration of chemical makers will be affected by acidity?

Here's some paraphrasing to get you back on track.

"take the example of glucose oxidase."

and

"All these factors (and probably others) have the potential to markedly alter chemical markers in different regions and seaonal time frames"

and

"no uncontested chemical marker built into a monofloral honey standard in the World is a testament to the difficulty of this task"

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Here's some paraphrasing to get you back on track.

 

 

That's very kind of you. Allow me to repay the favour by repeating an important point you seem to have missed:

 

The whole point would be to choose compounds which don't suffer from such issues.

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Jake said:

The whole point would be to choose compounds which don't suffer from such issues.

 

 

So I guess MPI have found some of these then do you know what they are and in what concentration they will need to be to meet the standard?

 

 

The chemical marker one could cost anywhere between $50-$200 depending on the complexity.

 

If a test is going to cost $200 a drum thats a significant cost to the beekeeper and the potential for huge profits to be made by the testing facility

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No idea Fozz, I guess we'll find out in due course.

 

Analytical testing is probably more expensive than you realise though. After you account for development of the methods, the man hours to run them, the consumables, and the equipment (= the price of a small house), it adds up pretty quick.

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At Pac and sav comvita 2.5umf one kg is 48$ dont most honeys if tested have a similar rating to that.why is that so expensive.i couldn't work that one out.?

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It's all about the numbers on the jar.

Whatever the standard it will need to be converted into a number to get the high price.

I think the UMF club can use their UMF rating on their label no matter what the standard because it's deemed to be OK by whoever makes the rules.

It will be very interesting to see how much of the honey sold under the UMF label actually makes the grade for Manuka honey under the standard.

 

Makes for very interesting times

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Alls good Frazz.

The standards tighten up .... those of us doing honey for the buzz re structure and carry on, those in it for the dollar regroup or fade way and we all live happily ever after.

Or is that too simplistic ?

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Alls good Frazz.

The standards tighten up .... those of us doing honey for the buzz re structure and carry on, those in it for the dollar regroup or fade way and we all live happily ever after.

Or is that too simplistic ?

Nope - spot on!!!

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those of us doing honey for the buzz

Yeah right

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