Fake it until you make it?
Everybody likes a deal, especially these days when inflation rates are skyrocketing, and a small packet of groceries costs a small fortune. Honey is generally a costly commodity, and when you find this ‘liquid gold’ at super cheap prices you probably feel like a kid on Christmas morning! But is this too good to be true? European officials have just announced that almost half of the honey imported into the European Union is fake…
Europe is the world’s second-largest importer of honey after the United States.¹ The local demand for honey in the European Union (EU) exceeds domestic production, leading to importation.2 The EU has about 612 000 beekeepers and 18 million hives producing approximately 280 000 tons of honey a year. However, local beekeepers have been unable to compete with the influx of low-priced, imported honey.¹
‘From the Hives’ was set up in 2021 to assess the prevalence of adulterated honey on the market. The coordinated action is spearheaded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), along with the national authorities of 18 countries that are part of the EU Food Fraud Network, European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).²
‘From the hives’ targeted imports of honey into the EU in three phases and involved OLAF and national authorities in investigating places of import, processing, blending, and packing on suspicious consignments.2 This coordinated action has recently confirmed that almost half of the honey that is imported into the EU does not comply with the provisions of the ‘Honey Directive’. This is based on 320 samples that were randomly sampled between November 2021 to February 2022. China is responsible for 74% of suspicious consignments, and 14 out of 15 kinds of honey from Turkey were determined to be fake and contained extraneous sugars. Honey from the United Kingdom is also deemed to be fake, which is likely due to blending honey from other countries and then re-exporting to the EU.3
Exporters and importers have been found to be involved in the following malpractices:³
⦁ Use of sugar syrups to lower the price of honey
⦁ Analysing honey/sugar blends in certain laboratories to elude possible detection by clients and official authorities
⦁ Adulterating the true botanical source of the honey with additives and colourings
⦁ Forging the traceability information and removing pollen to mask the true geographical origin of honey
According to EU legislation, honey must remain ‘pure’ and cannot have ingredients added to it. Adding water or inexpensive sugar syrups to increase the volume of honey is considered ‘adulteration’.2 The adulterated samples in this study were found to be cut with sugar syrups made from rice, wheat or sugar beet.1 Even though the addition of water or sugar syrup is not likely to pose any health risks, these practices defraud consumers and create unfair competition for honest producers as they are unable to compete with much cheaper products made with these cheap ingredients.2
To gain the health benefits from honey you will need the ‘real deal’ – so no room for ‘fakers’ here! Honey should be enjoyed the way Winnie-the-Pooh liked it, raw and unadulterated.
We at Liviana™ pride ourselves in sourcing some of the best honey that South Africa has to offer! Our honey originates from the Outeniqua Mountains and we have two floral sources, offering distinct and delicious taste profiles. Our honey is raw and of the highest quality, and you rest assured that we are not putting any ‘funny stuff’ in there.
To read more about our honey and to purchase a jar today, click here
- ⦁ Rodriguez C. 20233. Nearly half of the honey in European markets is fake, EU investigation finds. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ceciliarodriguez/2023/03/24/half-of-the-honey-in-european-markets-is-fake-alerts-eu-investigation/?sh=8b2c73468b20 Date of access: 5 April 2023.
- ⦁ European Anti-Fraud Office. 2023. (No) sugar for my honey: OLAF investigates honey fraud. Available at: https://anti-fraud.ec.europa.eu/media-corner/news/no-sugar-my-honey-olaf-investigates-honey-fraud-2023-03-23_en Date accessed: 5 April 2023.
- ⦁ European Commission. 2023. EU coordinated action “From the Hives” (Honey 2021-2022). Available at: https://food.ec.europa.eu/safety/eu-agri-food-fraud-network/eu-coordinated-actions/honey-2021-2022_en Date accessed: 5 April 2023