The environmental watchdog Center for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed today that honey sold by many significant brands in India was discovered to be adulterated with sugar syrup.
Food scientists from the CSE picked 13 top and smaller brands to verify their purity.
77 per cent of the samples were found to have been adulterated with sugar syrup. Just five out of the 22 samples tested passed all the tests.
The study claimed that "Honey samples from leading brands such as Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari and Apis Himalaya, all failed the NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) test,"
The the Center for Science
and Environment said when these samples were first tested at the Centre for Livestock and Food Research and Learning (CALF) at the
National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat, they all passed the test, except for a few smaller brands which failed to detect C4 sugar test.
"But 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," it claimed.
"Our concern is not just that the honey we eat is adulterated, but that this adulteration is difficult to catch. In fact, we have found that the sugar syrups are designed so that they can go undetected," said Amit Khurana, programme director of CSE's Food Safety and Toxins team.
The CSE also reported that it had monitored Chinese trade portals that marketed fructose syrup that could circumvent adulteration control checks. The same Chinese companies that advertised this fructose syrup that can beat C3 and C4 tests were also exported to India, it was also found.
Sunita Narain, CSE director general, said they then conducted an undercover operation to find out more.
"Chinese companies informed CSE that even if 50-80 per cent of the honey is adulterated with syrup, it would pass all stipulated tests. A sample of the syrup that can bypass tests was then sent by the Chinese company as paint pigment to get through customs," she claimed.
"We are consuming honey - more of it to fight the pandemic. But honey adulterated with sugar will not make us well. It will, in fact, make us even more vulnerable. On the other hand, what should also concern us is that the loss of bees will lead to a collapse of our food system - bees are critical for pollination; if honey is adulterated, then not only do we lose our health, but also the productivity of our agriculture," she said.
Narain said it is time to outwit the business of adulteration.
"We need to strengthen enforcement in India through public testing so that companies are held responsible. The government should get samples tested using advanced technologies and make this information public so that consumers are aware and our health is not compromised. It will also hold companies responsible," Narain said.
"Ensure that every honey company is required to trace back the origins of the honey - from the beekeeper to the hive," she added.
(With inputs from PTI)