UMF and MGO Ratings Explained

All types of honey have a very mild antiseptic property because they contain hydrogen peroxide. It is only Manuka Honey that has the additional and more powerful antibacterial property. If you have been trying to assess the strength of Manuka Honey products, you may have noticed two different labels on the honey containers:One is UMF, the other MGO. Here is a quick outline of UMF and MGO plus a summary:

UMF

UMF stands for ‘Unique Manuka Factor’ and it is an internationally registered trademark that can be used only by licensed users who meet set criteria which include auditing and monitoring to ensure the product is natural, unadulterated, Manuka honey that has the unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity and is true-to-label claim.

After Dr. Peter Molan, a Senior Lecturer at the Waikato University in New Zealand, discovered the additional antibacterial property in Manuka Honey, the UMF rating system was developed to measure the activity level of Manuka Honeys.

Rather than measuring the methylglyoxal content like the MGO methodology, the UMF rating actually tests the antibacterial performance of a honey and compares it to phenol, a disinfectant. The Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) that does the testing states:

“The presence of the special non-peroxide activity can be detected only by an array of scientific testing directly relating to the phenol standard. The rating has a one-to-one relationship to the phenol standard. ”

This means that a UMF rating of 20+ is equivalent in strength to a 20% solution of phenol. Manuka Honey is independently tested in an accredited laboratory for its antibacterial UMF®. All Manuka Honey that has a UMF rating of more than 10 is highly active honey and therefore known as Active Manuka Honey. The ideal UMF rating varies depending on your purpose, but laboratory studies have shown that manuka honey with a non-peroxide activity level of UMF®12 to UMF®15 is effective against a wide range of very resistant bacteria.

MGO

MGO ratings refer to the level of Methyglyoxal in the honey. Methyglyoxal is a marker of Manuka honey but it does not cause the non-peroxide activity.

The discovery of the active ingredient “Methylglyoxal” in Manuka Honey was made by Professor Thomas Henle from the Institute of Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. Manuka Health state that the higher the MGO™ rating in Manuka honey the higher the level of anti-bacterial activity in the honey.

Methylglyoxal is a compound found in the pollen of the Manuka tree’s flowers. This tree, a New Zealand native has a short flowering period which makes the placement of hives and the timing of the harvest crucial. If done correctly, the Methylglyoxal present in the maunka honey will be much higher.

Summary of UMF and MGO Manuka Honey

UMF and MGO ratings are both used to indicate the antibacterial strength of Manuka Honey in different ways, however there is a relationship between the level of Methylglyoxal and the Non Perocide Activity (as measured by the UMF).

Table of UMF and MGO comparison:

UMF RATING MGO*
UMF 5+ 83
UMF 10+ 263
UMF 12+ 354
UMF 15+ 514
UMF 18+ 692
UMF 20+ 829