Honey Fraud on the Global Market
Canadian beekeepers Rhonda and Dan Dobson of Sticky Fingers Honey are located in the South Cariboo area of British Columbia, with hives at Lac la Hache and Horse Lake. They have around 14 hives in their apiary and are committed to producing premium raw unpasteurized honey as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. They can't compete with the cheap fake honey flooding the market, and believe an informed public is critical, so they are passionate to raise awareness about the threat of honey fraud.
Fake honey is a problem that harms everyone. Beekeepers with genuine honey, having worked long and hard to bring it to market, are drastically undercut by adulterated honeys in supermarkets. Consumers, unaware that there is fake honey on the market, are often drawn to the lowest price they can find. Everybody loses except the fraudsters.
Honey fraud is on the rise everywhere, and in Canada alone in 2018 the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) was able to stop 12,800 kilograms of tainted honey from entering the Canadian market. That “honey” had fillers such as beet sugar, corn syrup and rice syrup mixed in with some real honey.
Honey ranks just third on the list of Most Faked Foods after olive oil and milk. Considering how popular these items are, this is a serious business that international law enforcement needs to intercept and stop for the sake of consumer confidence.
Meanwhile, there is hope of another kind, although it won’t be an overnight fix. The Dobsons and many other beekeepers are sending samples of their honey in to a data-collecting initiative called True Honey Buzz that will categorize all honeys sent to them. This is a Canadian father and son operation. Peter and his father Jerry have been beekeepers for a long time, and they are serious about knocking out fake honey by using magnetic resonance. The beekeepers will receive a report of their honey content, the flowers in their honey, and more. Eventually, with enough beekeepers participating to build the global database, honey can be certified as real.
True Honey Buzz: Canadian father and son want to catalog all real honeys in the world. This video is under 2 minutes long and shows you what they have in mind and how you can participate if you are a beekeeper:
Meanwhile, honey from Australia’s biggest brands was tested according to Australian law and they passed the tests. Up to 70% of honey used in some of their labels comes from China. The testing methods are old and outdated.
Here is how the fraud takes place. Starch from rice is turned into rice syrup and used as a cheap bulking agent. So is corn syrup.
Twenty-eight jars of honey were purchased and sent to a German lab for nuclear magnetic resonance testing for food fraud. 12 of the 28 jars contained adulterated honey, some of the most trusted honey brands in Australia.
Many honeys on the market today by known brands did not pass the test. This is not implying these companies are intentionally selling fraudulent honey. It is likely they purchased what they thought was honey in bulk at a cheap price. Honey originating in China has a high likelihood of being adulterated. This is done to keep cost down and profit up.
30-35% of all honey sold in the world at this stage is fraudulent, according to Interpol.
This 14:13 minutes long video about adulterated honey in the Australian market is very insightful and well worth watching:
Beekeepers face many hazards these days—weather, environmental, thieves, droughts, fires, pesticides and disease, not to mention colony collapse disorder. Now fake honey can be added to the list. Beekeeping is not a cheap undertaking. There are many costs involved, not to mention the time consuming lifestyle. Therefore, real honey is costly, as it should be. According to the Canadian Honey Council, honey bees tap 2 million flowers and fly 50,000 miles / 80,000 kilometers to make 1 pound / 454 grams of honey. One hard working worker honeybee only makes 1/10 to 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. This puts things into perspective. We should all see honey as a rare and precious luxury, even if we can buy the real thing in a store for an affordable price.
When it comes to honey, you get what you pay for. This doesn’t mean every cheap honey on the market is fraudulent. Clearly, more attention needs to be focused in this area and stronger detection of fraudulent substances must be put in place. The public should be educated, and with this blog post and more to come we are doing our part to alert honey lovers about what is going on. We have high hopes that the global True Honey Buzz database will eventually make it impossible for fake honey to find its way into the marketplace.
Meanwhile, interact with your local beekeepers and buy honey you know you can trust.