Report: Laboratory results of honey testing

December 02, 2020

1. Introduction

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) conducted an investigation to understand adulteration in honey. As part of this, honey samples were sent for testing at two laboratories. These laboratories were:

  • Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF), National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Gujarat, India
  • A renowned food testing laboratory in Germany

2. Samples sent for testing

A total of 13 honey brands were tested. Eight of these are big brands selling processed honey. Five are niche brands. Four out these five sell raw honey.

Samples were purchased during Aug-Nov, 2020 from retail stores in Delhi and major online platforms. For each brand, multiple samples of the same batch were purchased. In addition, in some cases, samples of different batches were also purchased.

Samples sent to CALF, NDDB were tested on parameters set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) operationalized in 2020. Key adulteration parameters are tests for C4/C3 sugars, foreign oligosaccharides, Specific Marker for Rice (SMR) i.e. 2-acetylfuran-3-glucopyranoside (AFGP).

  • C4 sugars are those derived from C4 plants (plants using C4 photosynthetic pathway) such as corn, sugarcane
  • C3 sugars are those derived from C3 plants (plants using C3 photosynthetic pathway) such as rice, beet root
  • Foreign oligosaccharides are starch-based polysaccharide sugars such as from rice and corn

Samples sent to the German lab were tested for Trace Marker for Rice syrup (TMR) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) profiling. These two tests are not part of the current FSSAI standards. NMR is an advanced test to check for adulteration and confirmation of origin of honey.

Samples were sent to the two laboratories in different phases as the study evolved (see Table 1 for details of samples sent for testing).



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