Waikato University launches annual honey summit

30 May 2008
The University of Waikato is launching an annual honey research summit featuring its world-leading researchers.

The public will be invited to hear the latest research surrounding honey and its healing, anti-bacterial properties.

The summit, planned for later this year, will include experts from the University of Waikato's Honey Research Unit. Post-graduate students will present papers, and clinicians and companies using honey will also be invited to participate. Of particular interest at this year's inaugural summit will be the advances made in understanding what is in manuka honey that makes it so good as an antibacterial substance. Widespread evidence shows manuka's antibacterial agents are effective at healing wounds.

The university's Honey Research Unit was the first to scientifically identify the main active anti-bacterial ingredient in manuka honey.

The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating was devised by University of Waikato researcher Dr Peter Molan about 10 years ago to show the level of activity in manuka honey being sold as an antibacterial substance. The special scientific testing, using criteria laid down by the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato, is the accepted worldwide method to determine the level of activity.

However, a debate is emerging in the honey industry about how best to test for the main anti-bacterial ingredient in manuka honey. One firm has already fallen foul of the industry watchdog, the Active Manuka Honey Association, which has axed its membership.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford said the university would present the facts about manuka honey's active ingredients at a summit headlined by world leaders in the field, such as the university's Professor Molan and Professor Merilyn Manley-Harris.

"The public will have the opportunity to judge for themselves the merits, or otherwise, of what is claimed in the advertising literature from the various honey companies," Professor Crawford said.

The Active Manuka Honey Association says the domestic and export market for UMF honey sales is worth about $100 million a year and it says exporters and apiarists have spent millions of dollars building their branding around the University of Waikato's UMF rating system – the only standard worldwide developed to measure honey for its antibacterial activity.

More details about the University of Waikato summit will be announced soon.