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How To Read Your Honey Label

How to Read Your Honey Label

Honey is good for you. It’s also versatile, used for anything from food, to skincare, and even for medical purposes. It’s also confusing stuff – what do all those labels mean? What’s ‘raw’ honey? And how do you interpret those numbers on Manuka honey labels?

The Food Standards Agency demand some basics, which are:

• The word ‘honey’ has to be on the label, as does the weight of the product

• If it’s a certain ‘type’ of honey, i.e. heather, blossom, lavender, it must be at least 75% of that type of honey

• The honey seller must be easily found from information on the label (although the country of origin must be separate and clear, i.e. Produce of England)

• There must be a Best Before date

All of these are pretty basic requirements for any foodstuff, but over and above that, here’s our guide on making sense of your honey label.

Raw Honey or Regular Honey – what’s the difference?

If you try to get hold of local honey wherever you can, you’ve probably already had a chat with your friendly local beekeeper about exactly what’s in your honey. They will also tell you that what you buy in the supermarket might look like honey, smell like honey and taste like honey, but isn’t necessarily honey – or not as they think of it.

Commercial honey is what you’re most likely to pick up in the supermarket. More often than not, it has been pasteurised – this improves the appearance by making the honey look much more uniform and smooth, but it also kills off almost anything in the honey that makes it good for you. Those antibiotic properties? All gone, along with any minerals and antioxidants.

Raw honey, on the other hand, is pretty much what it claims to be – straight from the beehive, unpasteurised, most definitely a superfood, and most definitely very good for you. It also still contains bee pollen, which is recommended to help with anything from improving energy to allergies. The pasteurisation process removes this from commercial honey.

And Manuka Honey? What do those numbers mean?

The Manuka Bush is also known as Tea Tree, which might give you a clue as to the extra anti-bacterial effects this type of honey has. It comes from Australia and New Zealand, and has proven health benefits when it comes to dealing with skin conditions and sore throats.

Those numbers relate to UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) and to NPA (non-peroxide activity, and you may see both on a Manuka Honey label. All honey contains hydrogen peroxide (which gives it its antibacterial properties), but this breaks down over time. Manuka honey, however, has antibacterial properties in addition to this, and these are measured to determine the honey’s potency. As a general rule, the higher the number, the better the anti-bacterial strength of the honey. Good quality honey isn’t cheap, but in terms of health benefits, it’s one of the most versatile additions to your diet you can make, all year round.

Get more tips for a healthy body and mind at Code Health's Community.

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