UMF professor splits from manuka honey association
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Professor’s split from honey association ‘most significant development since methylglyoxal’ says Manuka Health NZ
The only company to measure the active antibacterial ingredient in manuka honey today described a shock split in the multi-million-dollar export industry as “the most significant development since the discovery of methyglyoxal”.
Manuka Health New Zealand chief executive Kerry Paul said the industry had been stunned by the ending of a 15-year relationship between Professor Peter Molan and the Active Manuka Honey Association which runs the UMF test system he created.
Mr Paul described as “industry shaking” the rift between Professor Molan and AMHA.
“The university professor who created the UMF measurement system has given evidence against AMHA and has now dissociated himself completely from both the organisation and UMF. This is the most significant development in the industry since the discovery of methyglyoxal.”
Mr Paul predicted more consumers would turn to the methyglyoxal-based MGO™ manuka honey system his company launched last year.
Professor Molan, the head of the University of Waikato’s Honey Research Unit, emailed AMHA member companies last week advising he had “decided personally to no longer have anything to do with AMHA or UMF”.
“I hold the executive of AMHA responsible for my reaching this personal decision”, the email said.
Professor Molan said he made the statement personally and not as a representative of the university.
Mr Paul said the email followed written evidence which Professor Molan gave in court last month in support of Wairarapa-based honey company Watson & Son, which is challenging an AMHA move to withdraw its UMF licence on the basis its honey was below label claim.
The High Court at Hamilton heard that Watson & Son had been named New Zealand’s fastest growing company with revenue growth of 784% between 2006 and 2008, but withdrawal of its UMF licence would place its future in jeopardy.
Professor Molan’s affidavit stated UMF tests on the same sample could return results varying by plus or minus 2 points on a 20-point test. Test refinements he had recommended had not been introduced by AMHA.
Watson & Son lawyer Daniel Hughes said the current testing regime was “inherently unreliable” and he believed there was bias on the association’s executive. Justice Pankhurst’s decision is pending on the company’s interim injunction preventing withdrawal of its UMF licence.
Mr Paul said his company had known for many years that repeat UMF tests on the same sample could change by more than 25 per cent.
“That is why Manuka Health has adopted the MGO™ manuka honey brand because its test for the natural compound methylglyoxal is precise and repeatable.”
“Consumers of MGO™ manuka honey know what they are purchasing. MGO™ 100 manuka honey contains at least 100mg of methylglyoxal per kilogram of honey.”
“The University of Dresden demonstrated that methylglyoxal is responsible for the reliable antibacterial activity found only in some manuka honey, and that the level of methylglyoxal is directly proportional to the level of anti-bacterial activity.”
Mr Paul said the UMF rating system pre-dated the discovery of methyglyoxal and relied on comparing the antibacterial activity of honey samples to a common antiseptic, phenol.
He said the UMF system also did not distinguish itself from other manuka honey rating systems like Active which measured a different and unstable type of antibacterial activity.