Targetted surveillance testing by CFIA in 2018 found that 78% of the 240 honey samples collected from across Canada, were authentic, including 100% of Canadian honey sampled. The remaining samples found the presence of added sugars. Normally CFIA analyse honeys for the presence of sugar cane and corn syrup, while this surveillance testing also included looking for rice syrup and beet sugar in honey using a new scientific testing method.
The study was commissioned by the Honey Integrity Task Force, an organisation made up of representatives from the entire honey industry including importers, packers, producers, marketing cooperative members and an organisation that specialises in the honey supply chain. Two sample each of 30 honeys were collected from the top selling brands, accounting for approximately 40% of the honey sold in the U.S. retail market. The labels were masked and one set each were sent to two laboratories in Germany that specialise in honey testing, QSI and Intertek. Each lab conducted two adulteration tests, the AOAC-approved 998.12, 13C-Isotope Mass Spectrometry and 13C-IRMS (EA IRMS)/ +LC-IRMS method for C4/C3 adulteration. Both tests are well recognised methods designed to determine if any sugars were added to the honey.The results on 28 of the samples confirmed that they were not adulterated. Two of samples tested as being "adulterated". One was an imitation honey made with maltitol syrup, and the other was a blended product with both corn syrup and honey, neither were labelled as pure honey.
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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission(AACC) has concluded its investigation into the honey company Capilano, and declared that the testing method used which claimed that the company's honey had been adulterated is not yet reliable to make such a claim. Tests carried out in Germany by Quality Services International found that half the samples collected from supermarkets had been adulterated. The tests claimed that Capilano's Allowrie honey, labelled as "pure" and "100% honey" were adulterated with sugar syrup. Capilano denied there are such issues with its honey and criticised the methodology behind the tests. This criticism has now been upheld by the ACCC, which said that the ACCC is advised that NMR testing is not yet reliable enough to determine whether honey is adulterated, and therefore should not be used as a basis to support legal action. This is consistent with the approach of regulators in the UK, US and the EU. Also, the ACCC's investigation found that Capilano had taken steps to provide assurance, and did not uncover any other evidence that supported the allegation Capilano's Allowrie honey was adulterated with sugar syrup.
Spanish researchers have carried out a preliminary study using an electronic tongue based on potential multistep pulse voltammetry, in combination with multivariate statistical techniques to detect and quantify sugar syrup in honey. Pure monofloral honey (heather, orange blossom and sunflower), sugar syrup (derived from rice, barley and maize), and samples simulating adulterated honey with different percentages of syrup (2.5, 5, 10, 20 and 40) were evaluated. An automatic, electrochemical system for cleaning and polishing the electronic tongue sensors (Ir, Rh, Pt, Au) significantly improved the repeatability and accuracy of the measurements. PCA analysis showed that the proposed methodology is able to distinguish between types of pure honey and syrup, and their different levels of adulterants. A subsequent PLS analysis successfully predicted the level of the adulterants in each honey, achieving good correlations considering the adjusting parameters. The measurement system here proposed has the potential to be a quick and effective option for the honey packaging sector. However, much further work is needed to see how effective this technique is with a wider range of monofloral honey, blended honey and commercial sugar syrups.
Read the abstract at: electronic tongue and honey adulteration
In 2015, the European Commission organised a major study on honey in all 28 Member States plus Norway and Switzerland as part of the EU Coordinated Control Plan. Samples regarded as non-compliant with the EU Honey Directive or suspicious were sent to JRC for further analyses by liquid chromatography- isotope ratio mass spectrometry. 893 samples were analysed by JRC and 14% found to contain added sugar. The final report of this study has just been published. The Commission will discuss with the relevant stakeholders an appropriate follow-up to this control plan.
Read the report at: JRC Report on honey
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