Since there is among many members of the international honey industry confusion as well as conflicts regarding the detection of honey adulteration, it will help an industry struggling to achieve authenticity and to overcome economically motivated adulteration and food fraud in the honey sphere, if there is a systematic and comprehensive recommendation based upon the best scientific knowledge of today.
Scientists recognize: 1) new methodologies evolve, 2) databases of honey samples can continuously be expanded, 3) analyses of blends must be included, 4) there is an imperative for fuller traceability to specify variables which influence chemical and physical profiles of both monofloral and blends of honeys, and 5) new modes of adulteration emerge. Greater clarity and guidance should be provided regarding results of testing. This is especially needed for new tests such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and HRMS.
Beekeepers, exporters, importers, packers, retailers and manufacturers will all benefit from a more systematic and accessible interpretation of test results.
There are currently 4 major modes of adulteration:
1. The extraction of immature, unripened, high moisture honey, with moisture reduced mechanically through human intervention;
2. The blending of extraneous sweeteners, including bioengineered sweeteners;
3. The use of resin technology to remove antibiotics, color components, flavor components, chemical residues. Resin technology is also being used to create the appearance of organic honey;
4. The extraction of intrinsic pollens or the incorporation of extraneous pollens.
The industry needs to better understand which tests are appropriate for a given mode of adulteration. They need to understand those parameters, variables and profiles which verify and or quantify the mode of adulteration at play in EMA and FF in the honey sphere.
The industry needs guidance so that it is clear what test method will indicate, for example, if honey has been extracted immaturely. If resin technology is being used to remove carbendazim, prohibited antibiotics or offensive flavors, so honey can be sold as light colored, residue free, and mild flavored, what is the suitable methodology to use? If bioengineered sweeteners manufactured in China or India are used to reduce costs, which test reveals this?
Through the work of Apimondia, the USP, Food Law theorists, articles and talks, we have reached a stage where it is clear to all that the old Carbon Isotope technology is wholly insufficient. Concurrently, it is recognized that NMR, HRMS hold great promise for exposing modes of adulteration which cannot be found using other methods. The toolbox of detection of FF and EMA has expanded. But it should not be used partially or in the wrong way. Misuse allows economically motivated adulteration to continue but under new and more sophisticated disguises.
Those who are trying to manipulate and game the system have advocated using 1 scientific tool, which may not be well suited, to determine a particular form of adulteration. Concurrently they may advocate another tool, but not for the adulteration which is best exposed by that technology.
In an era of increased traceability, it is both possible and necessary to require specification of those variables such as botanical origin, geographic origin, climatic conditions, extraction timing and procedures, processing variables and storage conditions. Contemporary computerization allows for implementation of a more comprehensive traceability system incorporating more variables.
Dr. Joseph Bowden, who worked with the US Department of Agriculture, asserted that modern computerization allows a much fuller specification of the chemical and physical profiles of the global supply of honey. This has become feasible and desirable given the diversity of the world’s honeys. Botanists and zoologists routinely engage in research to establish those comprehensive profiles in their research on botanical and zoological genuses, species and varieties. Such variables, found in the global diversity of honey, include the sugar profiles which can differ greatly between floral sources, and carbon isotope ratios.
This guidance should be led by a group of independent scientific experts rather than exclusively private for profit laboratories since for profit laboratories inevitably have elements of competitiveness among them.