SciCorp Laboratories, in collaboration with Eurofins, can now perform authenticity testing on honey.
Recently, the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) asked the South African government to start policing honey adulteration that has clearly been going on for a while, without consumers noticing. A recent investigation showcased on the television program Carte Blanche, raised awareness of honey adulteration in the country.
According to the European Union’s report on food fraud and the control thereof, honey was listed as one of the top ten most frequently adulterated foods, among others such as wine, milk, fruit juice, coffee and tea, spices (e.g. chili powder and saffron) and grains. At the time (2013) fish, olive oil, and organic foods were also pointed out as high risk food fraud items in Europe.
Two ways to assess honey authenticity
Cheaper components are often added to honey, and referred to as economically motivated adulteration (EMA). Honey authenticity is two-factorial. Firstly, it is related to the geographical or botanical origin of the honey, which is determined via the microscopic analysis of the pollen spectrum. Secondly, authenticity is influenced by adulteration, either by feeding the bees excessive sugar, or through addition of sugars to the honey during processing.
Testing for honey adulteration
Unfortunately, there are no laboratories in South Africa accredited,to perform honey adulteration tests. SciCorp Laboratories, in collaboration with Eurofins Dr. Specht Laboratorien, an internationally accredited laboratory in Germany, can now assist in this regard.
The best way of testing honey adulteration is to investigate levels of C4 and C3 sugars. C4 sugars are derived from sugarcane and grasses, while C3 sugars are derived from nectar, sugar beet and rice sugars.
Additional common tests include hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and moisture content, but cane and corn syrup will also pass these tests. HMF is an organic compound formed by reducing sugars in honey and other foods in acidic environments, through heating. HMF is used as an indication of quality in honey, and affected by processing and storage conditions.