CSE Investigation finds that 10 out of 13 companies tested sell adulterated honey in India

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) recently conducted multiple tests to check the purity of the honey sold in India. For this, they took samples of honey sold by 13 companies like Patanjali, Emami, Dabur, Zandu, Saffola and others. To everyone’s surprise, 10 of the samples failed one test, which showed that they were selling adulterated honey in the Indian market.

In general, a sample of honey has to pass through 18 different tests to be stated 100% pure. While most samples passed a majority of the tests, 17 of the 22 samples tested failed the NMR test, which led to them being labelled impure. This means 77% of the samples didn’t make the cut, and that’s alarming to say the least.

What was the test that they failed?

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy Test checks for the constituents of the honey at a molecular level, which gives the results of the composition in the truest manner. Apparently, companies do not need to pass this test to sell honey in India but it is required to do so if they are to export their products. Only the samples sent by Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Nature’s Nectar passed the tests. Note that this test was conducted multiple times to be sure of the results.

Amit Khurana, program director of CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins, said that he was baffled to see the results and warned about the growing practice of adulteration in selling honey products. He was worried about the fact that companies were managing to add sugar syrups to honey extracts in a way that let them pass the stipulated tests and were selling impure honey in the market.

Dabur Honey’s reply

Dabur Honey came out with a statement denying the claims made in the reports. In fact, the company showed a report of the tests conducted by Bruker, a German company, to show that honey sold by Dabur had passed the NMR test. The statement also said that Dabur is the only company in India that has NMR testing equipment in its laboratory and that they conduct this test even for the honey sold in India, to make it a 100% pure honey. More news regarding the accuracy of the claims is yet to break out.

What else did the investigation find?

These CSE investigations also revealed that certain companies have been buying synthetic sugar syrups from China to add that to their products. In fact, several of these sugar syrups were advertised on the e-commerce platform, Alibaba, as fructose syrup that can pass regulatory tests. The investigation further found a factory in Jaspur, Uttarakhand, that was making syrups to adulterate honey. Adding this to the honey did bypass the quality standards laid out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Sunita Narain, Director General of CSE, said that NMR tests just show the different constituents present in the honey samples and not the level of adulteration. She said that it is a shame that this is happening at a time when people are consuming honey more than usual as a preventive measure to fight the Coronavirus.

Adulteration in honey is a common practice around the world, and as a result, many countries are coming up with new and stricter regulations. However, it may be time to realise that regulations and certifications are processes that can be bypassed with a few clever tactics. The time has come for a more robust solution that addresses the problem of adulteration right at the grassroot level through innovative technology, to ensure that the question of a contaminated product never arises.

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