16 May 2008
AMHA Moves To Distance Itself From Cancer Claims
The Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) has acted swiftly to distance itself from promotional material released by
former member Manuka Health New Zealand Limited which is written in such a way that consumers could be led to believe
that the company's MGO-branded Manuka Honey could cure cancer.
AMHA Brand Manager, John Rawcliffe, said Manuka Health had been disseminating promotional materials offshore which said
that Indian cancer researchers had found that methylglyoxal (a compound found in manuka honey) in large doses has the
potential to act specifically against the body and has a significant curative effect on a wide range of cancers in
"Overseas markets have picked up on the claims and are challenging the validity and seeking recourse," Mr Rawcliffe
"AMHA has been forced to respond and inform the public and authorities that it is distancing itself from the company
Manuka Health and its directors and senior staff. We will also be taking all legal action required to address the
"Linking cancer research to promote sales of honey is not only damaging to the UMFR brand it is also misleading and
raises false hope amongst those people with cancer. AMHA could never stand by such a tenuous association which
questionably appears to be motivated by making profits.
"Manuka Health has also linked cancer claims to German research using the company's propolis product. This is in breach
of New Zealand 's MedSafe/Government regulations, as they are not supported by sufficient clinical trials to allow such
claims to be made in relation to consumable products..
Last month, AMHA terminated Manuka Health's membership after the company breached the Association's membership rules.
As a result of the termination of membership, Manuka Health was no longer entitled to use the UMFR trade mark on any of
its promotional materials and products including those currently on shelf.
"In addition, product testing by AMHA showed that Manuka Health had packed and sold UMFR honey that wasn't true to
label. Product sold which is not true to label is misleading and deceptive conduct in trade and can lead to consumers
purchasing products they believe to be of a stated quality when it isn't," Mr Rawcliffe said.
"Manuka Health has also made a connection in its promotion of its products, between MGO levels and the levels
associated with the UMFR trade mark. However, current testing has indicated that the correlation made is not accurate
and is yet another area where the labeling of Manuka Health's products is questionable."
Mr Rawcliffe said since the termination of membership, Manuka Health had refused 'point blank' to remove UMFR branded
honey from shelves.
"AMHA estimates that sales of UMFR honey and honey containing products both locally and offshore currently represent
more than NZD$100 million in annual turnover.
"Protecting the UMFR brand and customers who purchase UMFR products is, therefore, paramount. The actions of companies
like Manuka Health can have a detrimental impact on the UMF honey export business and the way that New Zealand honey
generally is viewed overseas."
AMHA was established in September 2002 from an industry group which operated from the mid 1990s and which recognized the
need to develop and maintain for members the UMFR brand as representing products for superior anti-bacterial
applications.. UMFR is the registered name and trademark of AMHA and can be used only by licensed users who meet set
criteria which includes the monitoring and auditing of the quality of their honey.
* UMFR is the AMHA trade mark applied to honey which has a unique type of antibacterial property which is naturally
present to varying degrees in all Manuka honey. UMFR Manuka Honey, the type of Manuka honey which has a high enough
level of this antibacterial property to warrant carrying the UMFR trademark, is highly sought-after.
* Laboratory studies have shown that UMFR Manuka Honey is effective against a wide range of very resistant bacteria
including the major wound-infecting bacteria and the stomach ulcer causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori.
* The UMFR honey has a particular quality which is additional to the usual properties of honey. But not all Manuka
honeys have a therapeutically useful level of this quality and among those that do, the strength varies.
* The UMFR Standard was established by Dr Peter Molan MBE, Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Waikato
, on behalf of AMHA, to identify and set apart the type of Manuka honey which has the therapeutic property. The small
proportion of Manuka honey that has the special property is identified by the AMHA trade mark UMFR.
* The UMFR Standard is the only Standard worldwide which identifies this unique type of property and measures the
antibacterial strength of it.
* The strength of the antibacterial property in UMFR honey can be measured only by special scientific testing using
criteria laid down by the Honey Research Unit at The University of Waikato. New Zealand Laboratories in Hamilton is the
only laboratory approved to carry out the testing of UMFR honey.
* The trade mark UMFR is followed by a number that indicates the strength of the antibacterial property present in a
batch of UMFR Manuka Honey. This will have been tested in the licensed laboratory after the honey has been packed.
* The number that follows the trade mark UMFR is the concentration of a standard antiseptic (phenol) that has the same
strength of the antibacterial property as present in the honey. This is the usual way that the strength of antiseptics
is shown. Thus the UMFR test rating shows the antibacterial property of the honey in a meaningful way to consumers.
* A UMFR 5 rating is the minimum UMFR test rating to qualify to use the trade mark UMFR.
* In research carried out in 2005 as part of a PhD thesis at the University of Dresden , a chance discovery was made
that the compound methylglyoxal, which forms in many foods, was present at high levels in Manuka honey. It was suggested
that this may be responsible for Manuka honey's unique antibacterial properties. Contrary to reports, the initial
research carried out at the University of Dresden was not funded by Manuka Health NZ Ltd.
* The only testing of methylglyoxal on bacteria done at the University of Dresden failed to show a statistically
validated correlation between the level of methylglyoxal and the antibacterial property of Manuka honey.
* Published research from the University of Waikato has shown that the level of methylglyoxal alone in Manuka honey does
not denote the actual antibacterial property level of a honey. Instead, a combined action of other components of the
Manuka honey with the methylglyoxal is what gives UMFR Manuka Honey its unique antibacterial property. The resultant
activity in UMFR Manuka Honey is not proportional to the level of methylglyoxal found in the honey.
o For example:
* Consumers purchasing honey rated as containing 700 mg.kg of methylglyoxal might do so with a mistaken belief that they
are getting 7 times more of the antibacterial property than in honey rated as containing 100 mg.kg of methylglyoxal.
Under these circumstances, they would in fact be getting only half the antibacterial property level in a honey with 700
mg.kg of methlyglyoxal compared to the 100 mg.kg methylglyoxal honey.
o If consumers were to rely on a methylglyoxal rating alone, they will have no idea of how much of the antibacterial
property level they are getting in the honey they buy. Furthermore, methylglyoxal is not a recognised antiseptic.
* Research work carried out at the University of Waikato has shown that methylglyoxal at a level of 700 mg/kg (the
highest rating on sale) has an antibacterial property level which is lower than that of a 10% solution of phenol.
Activity equivalent to that of a 10% solution of phenol is the minimum that can be sold with an equivalent UMFR test
rating (i.e. UMFR 10).