Honey is in the TOP 10 list of products that are most at risk of food fraud, according to the EU Commission (*1). Codex Alimentarius Commission has created the set standard for honey to protect the health of the consumers and to ensure fair trade practices (*2). The most common practices are the addition of sugars and mislabeled geographical origin.
The EU defines honey as “the natural sweet substance produced by Apis mellifera bees from the nectar of plants […], which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature”.
Member states must conduct lab tests on the honey they collect and import, by checking parameters like origin and levels of pollen, moisture, and the presence of added sugars.
Honey fraud takes different forms:
Replacing multi-floral honey with single source for higher profit. This is accomplished by adding sugar syrups to increase the volume, or harvesting it ahead of time and then drying it artificially in large “honey factories”, to cut time and costs. In all cases, the final product is far inferior from what consumers think they’re buying, as well as from the EU’s legal definition of honey.
Honey adulteration practices can be direct or indirect. Direct adulteration of honey involves the direct dilution and mixing of honey with industrial sugar syrup. Indirect adulteration of honey involves the feeding of bees in hives with industrial sugar syrup. In this case, bees turn industrial sugar syrup into “honey”, so this type of honey adulteration is more difficult to detect.
Lately, fraudsters have started using invert sugar syrup originating from Beet, which is C3 plant. By doing this they have been able to overcome known isotopic methods for testing honey. This is where EIM_IRMS® method differentiates itself as we are able to uncover these practices.
EIM-IRMS method is capable of generating unique and non-reproducible isotope fingerprint of the original product used for geographical origin declaration.
Detection of added sugars
EIM-IRMS method can detect addition of various sugar syrups from industrial plants such as sugar beet, corn, wheat, potato, rice, etc during production. Detection is done for known and unknown samples by measuring relative ratio of non-exchangeable Hydrogen stable isotopes (D/H)n (δDn) in ethanol previously quantitatively extracted from fermented honey samples.
*1 European Parliament Report (2013). On the food crisis, fraud chain and the control thereof (2013/2091 (INI)). Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2013-0434+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN)
*2 CODEX STAN 12-1981. REVISED CODEX STANDARD FOR HONEY CODEX STAN 12-1981, Rev.1 (1987), Rev.2 (2001). ( http://teca.fao.org/resource/codex-alimentarius-honey-standard)