The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has claimed that most of the honey sold in India including well known brands were adulterated with sugar syrup. According to CSE, laboratory studies conducted in India and Germany, reveal rampant adulteration in honey sold by major brands in India with 77 per cent of samples found adulterated with sugar syrup.

Only three out of 13 brands pass the internationally accepted Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) test, says CSE in a statement while briefing the media virtually.

CSE says that Indian standards for honey purity cannot detect the adulteration and adulteration was possible because Chinese companies have designed sugar syrups to bypass these standards.

It is pertinent to mention here that the FSSAI has also issued an order recently asking its officials across the country to keep an eye on the import of sugar syrup and its use.

CSE termed this as food fraud, which it says severely compromises public health in the troubled times of Covid-19, as Indians today are consuming more honey because they believe in its intrinsic goodness – antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties – and to build immunity against the virus.

“However, if it is adulterated honey, what we are really eating is sugar, which will add to the challenge of overweight and obesity, which in turn makes us more vulnerable to severe Covid-19 infection,” said Sunita Narain, director general CSE.

What did the investigation find?
CSE food researchers selected 13 top and smaller brands of processed and raw honey sold in India. Samples of these brands were first tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat. Almost all the top brands (except Apis Himalaya) passed the tests of purity, while a few smaller brands failed the tests to detect C4 sugar – call it basic adulteration using cane sugar.

However, when the same brands were tested using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) – laboratory tests currently being used globally to check for such modified sugar syrups – almost all big and small brands failed. Out of the 13 brands tests, only three passed the NMR test, which was done by a specialised laboratory in Germany.

The findings were:
77 per cent of the samples were found to be adulterated with addition of sugar syrup.

Out of 22 samples tested, only five passed all the tests.

Honey samples from leading brands such as Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari and Apis Himalaya, all failed the NMR test.

Only 3 out of the 13 brands – Saffola, MarkfedSohna and Nature’s Nectar (one out of two samples) — passed all the tests.

As of August 1, 2020, NMR tests have been made mandatory in India for honey that is meant for export, suggesting that the Indian government is aware of this adulteration business and the need for more advanced tests. The CSE also questions the FSSAI’s move on the subject