The Hindu Explains | Is there something known as ‘pure honey’, and the way is honey examined?

The story thus far: The Centre for Science and Surroundings (CSE) final week launched outcomes of an investigation it had carried out into the standard of honey being produced in India. It reported that merchandise by many in style manufacturers weren’t honey, and, actually, had been spiked with added sugar. Subsequently, they ought to not be branded and bought as honey. The CSE additionally confirmed that adulteration expertise had change into refined and there have been industrial merchandise out there that are designed to cheat the assessments that Indian meals testing laboratories conduct to determine the purity of honey.

Is there something known as ‘pure honey’?

Over millennia, ‘honey’ was what bees constituted of plant nectar and folks solely simply squeezed out the contents of honey combs, scrubbed it clear of bees, pollen and different seen residues. That is honey that’s both sourced from wild bees or domesticated bees in apiaries. Nevertheless, none of this constitutes ‘pure honey’, as a result of it’s a advertising time period and a superficial phrase that masks the complexity that’s ‘honey’. India’s meals regulator, the Meals Security and Requirements Authority of India (FSSAI), in July printed a brand new set of rules — the third in three years — known as the ‘Revised Requirements of Honey’. Nowhere does one discover the time period ‘pure honey’ in it. Nevertheless, provided that the adulteration of honey with added sugar is a world downside, the rules listed the chemical contents, i.e., tolerable limits of ‘impurities’ that should be detected by particular assessments for a batch of honey introduced by an organization for labelling to earn the fitting to market its product as honey. ‘Honey’ is then categorized as both ‘Blossom’ or ‘Nectar Honey’, which is what comes from nectar of vegetation, or ‘Honeydew’, which comes primarily from excretions of plant-sucking bugs (Hemiptera) on the dwelling elements of vegetation. The honey that’s in the end made out there is usually a mixture of those and might differ extensively in ‘honey profiles’. There are not less than 300 recognised forms of honey.

Additionally learn | CSE shares honey adulteration investigation particulars with meals security watchdog FSSAI

How is honey examined?

Honey is primarily a fancy of the fructose, glucose and sucrose sugars. It has a comparatively excessive fructose content material, which is why it’s sweeter than industrial sugar, which is heavier on sucrose. The latter additionally breaks down much less simply. Laboratory assessments decide acceptable ratios of those sugars and tolerance limits. There’s additionally a tolerance for ‘ash’ content material and HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural), which kinds when honey is heated. HMF is definitely poisonous for bees.


The explanation a variety of chemical selection is allowed is as a result of completely different flowers have various traits of nectar and categorical completely different chemical compounds which might be delicate to gentle, temperature and geography. Subsequently, it’s attainable to have uncooked honey that could be much less candy or excessive on sucrose, or is lighter or darker. Researchers in New Zealand have reported that uncooked honey from the manuka tree, which is believed to have medicinal qualities, is understood to fail a normal take a look at known as the C4 take a look at. Then, there are minimal ranges of pollen depend and international oligosaccharides {that a} amount of honey should have. All of those have a broad tolerance vary and are additionally influenced by the laboratory assessments employed to detect them. Apiaries are identified to feed beehives with sugar (sucrose) to stimulate manufacturing, and this, too, can affect the honey profile. However whether or not this makes the honey ‘uncooked’ is an open query. In all, there are 18 parameters for a product to be licensed as honey. The commonest are the so-called C4 and C3 assessments, that decide if sugar from corn, sugarcane or rice was used to adulterate honey.

Why does spiked honey matter?

Honey typifies ‘pure sweetness’. The enzymes that bees use to make honey out of plant nectar render it wealthy in antioxidants, amino acids and different merchandise that give honey its medicinal properties. That is why honey is a part of conventional drugs and has been promoted as an immune system stimulant, significantly in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The addition of synthetic sugar syrups reduces the focus of those components per gram of honey. As a sweetener, honey is digested extra simply than sucrose-heavy sugars, but it surely spikes blood sugar ranges the identical approach industrial sugar does. Subsequently, responsibly sourced honey poses related dangers to diabetics as bizarre sugar.

What did the CSE probe discover?

The CSE investigation examined 13 in style manufacturers of honey. 4 of them failed the assessments which might be required by Indian regulation—Apis Himalaya Honey, Dadev Honey, Hello Honey and Societe Naturelle Honey. The testing was finished on the Centre for Evaluation and Studying in Livestock and Meals, Gujarat.

Nevertheless, the CSE despatched the samples to a lab in Germany that specialises in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. This expertise has advanced from taking MRIs of the mind and is more and more being utilized in meals chemistry to unravel the chemical construction of meals and detect the presence of components extra effectively than routine, lab-based chemical assessments. The NMR take a look at just isn’t obligatory in India, however it’s mandatory for export functions. By this metric, ten of the 13 manufacturers failed, with solely three manufacturers — Saffola Honey, Nature’s Nectar Honey and Markfed Sohna Honey passing. The NMR methodology depends on establishing a reference database of honey profiles — traits of sugar, pollen, oligosaccharides, pollen, and so on.— from completely different geographic profiles. Main deviations from this are labelled suspect. The NMR investigation didn’t reveal what precisely was getting used to spike the sugar syrup. These particulars weren’t revealed by CSE because it selected to maintain the title of the testing lab secret. The CSE established that sugar syrups from China have been availabe that would cheat the C4, C3 and oligosaccharides assessments, however it’s not identified why precisely the ten manufacturers failed the NMR take a look at. Dabur claims that its personal NMR assessments in July finished by Bruker labs Germany confirmed no spectroscopy anomalies.

This story is accessible completely to The Hindu subscribers solely.

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