Tackling the Issues of Honey Fraud with NMR

Honey is a product that is highly susceptible to fraud, in terms of making the product into a lower quality than stated.

There are different forms of economically motivated adulteration and the most commons are the addition of sugar syrup and the false declaration of botanical type and geographical origin. In first case, sugar syrups, which are much cheaper than pure honey are added to increase profit. In the second case the motives for the fraud are to modify the consumer perception of quality and value of the honey and to circumvent bans, tariff rules or additional testing.

Ultrafiltration is another form of fraud and is used to mask the country of origin, by removing the pollen and to disguise the type of honey by removing chemical components, which give color and flavor to it. The process of Ultrafiltration also allows the removal of unwished substances such as residues of forbidden antibiotics like Chloramphenicol.

In this webinar, The Director of Market Management of Food Feed Beverages, AIC Division, at Bruker BioSpin, Thomas Spengler, and the Product Manager for the FoodScreener in the AIC Division of Bruker BioSpin Lea Heintz will introduce how NMR is an excellent technique for verifying the authenticity and how Bruker's Honey Profiling method and its underlying database offers a fast and comprehensive honey screening solution for detecting the adulteration of honey; and how the expansive database of the Bruker BioSpin NMR FoodScreener can be utilized to identify the origin of honey products.

The webinar starts off by looking at the outlook of the honey market and the challenges faced by beekeepers. The honey market is projected to grow within the next few years with the Asia-pacific region maintaining its market dominance, whilst the rest of the world is expected to grow by an average of 7%. The main drivers for the expected growth are: increasing health consciousness among the consumers worldwide, rising demand for honey as an alternative to table sugar and artificial sweeteners and increasing demand of mono-floral honeys in countries such as the U.S., Japan, and Australia. Despite the increasing demand, there are many challenges that affect the beekeepers industry at the primary end of the supply chain that are causing issues with profitability and sustainability, with up to 50% reductions in productivity per beehive within the last decade.

The conversation then moves on to talk about the different types of honey fraud on the market today. Thomas explains that fraud is a global problem and whenever demand is high and supply is short, an incentive exists for fraudsters to improve profits. Thomas showcases, as an example, the huge discrepancy between total export of honey and the increase of number of beehives in the period 2007-2014 in eastern countries; while these countries also faced issues related to hive productivity. This, combined with reports from official bodies, indicates that fraud mechanisms play a role and are apparently responsible for the injection of a very high amount of cheap produced and diluted honey to the market.  

The most common economically motivated adulterations are showcased in detail, including

  • the addition of sugar syrup
  • ultrafiltration of honey
  • transhipment of honey (to disguise its origin)
  • feeding bees with sugar syrup during the main nectar flow
  • harvesting unripe honey.

However, many techniques have a poor ability to detect these adulterations.

After looking at the wider picture of honey fraud, Lea takes over the webinar and goes on to talk about how NMR can be used for honey analysis. Lea looks at the various techniques used and how they are used in combination with each other to achieve a result. 1H-NMR is becoming a widely used technique for honey because it can detect the spectral fingerprint of honey and can observe many compounds with a high reproducibility. This includes the ability to detect several types of sugar and new frauds. It also negates the need for using multiple analytical techniques.

The final topic of the webinar looks at detecting honey fraud by using honey-profilingTM. The NMR FoodScreener provides a fully automated analysis with standardized methods so that data can be exchanged between different laboratories to tackle honey fraud worldwide. The honey-profilingTM approach relies on the use of a global database that covers over 100 different types of botanical varieties of honey from over 50 countries. Lea then goes into the technical workings of the FoodScreener instrument before looking at how the instrument can be used to detect the adulteration of honey by addition of sugar syrups, to verify the declared geographical and botanical origin, to provide a non-targeted screening of a honey sample, to deduce the chemical composition, freshness and quality of a sample, to quantify certain marker components and to analyze the regulated parameters in Europe.

To learn more about Bruker BioSpin’s product, Honey-Profiling in more detail, and to see how you can use this approach to tackle the different types of honey fraud, register and listen to the webinar.