The lab tests were conducted by consumer organisation Consumer Voice, who deemed these to be ‘authenticity tests’, and said that the results were a ‘revelation’.
Tests were carried out for C4 sugars (a means of determining whether honey has been adulterated. Pure honey should not contain C4 sugars above certain limits, although this is currently being disputed) as well as a range of other quality, safety and acceptability parameters.
The ten brands of honey tested were: 24 Mantra, Badiyanath, Dabur, Fresh & Pure, Hitkary, Himalaya, Khadi, Patanjali, Reliance and Zandu.
According to FSSAI parameters, C4 sugars should make up no more than 7%. Nearly all of the brands failed the C4 sugar testing.
“Except Zandu, none of the tested brands of honey conform to C4 sugars requirements,” reported Consumer Voice via on their website.
Apart from this, it was found that there was no protein detected in any of the brands besides Zandu and 24 Mantra.
“Protein is found naturally in honey and formed by bees through enzymatic breakdown of pollen and nectar,” said the association.
“The carbon isotope values of the honey and protein must be virtually identical if there are no added sugars. If any sugar is added to the honey, then the carbon isotope value of honey will be changed, while the protein value is unchanged.”
Worse yet, none of the brands fully meet the other quality requirements set by FSSAI either, which means that “[Basically], none of the brands is pure honey”, according to Consumer VOICE.
“None of the brands, including Zandu, conform to the other test parameters for purity and authenticity as per requirements of new notification by FSSAI.”
Labelling was also found to be a major issue, with just one brand (Khadi) carrying the country’s standard mark (Agmark) and declaring the grade of honey (Special, Grade A or Standard).
Consumer VOICE included limited manufacturer response in its report, but what was published generally insisted that their own test results were within required parameters.
Patanjali claimed that as per its own tests, all requirements were ‘well within the specifications and the sample meets the specifications of pure honey’, as did Himalaya.
24 Mantra said that its products were tested in ‘accredited labs’, which had proven its honey was not adulterated, whereas Baidyanath insisted that C4 limits had ‘not yet been implemented’ in the country.
Dabur suggested a joint evaluation be carried out together, as its results ‘completely differ’ from Consumer VOICE’s.
FSSAI standards for honey
Earlier this year, FSSAI had adjusted the tolerance limit of 10 antibiotics in honey, in order to ‘prevent the malpractices of using these antibiotics at producer level’.
The regulator also revised the country’s standards for honey to include new quality parameters, including diastase activity, 13C/ 12C ratios between fructose and glucose, Specific Rice Syrup (SMR) markers, Trace marker for Rice Syrup (TMR).
“With these standards of honey, the falsification/ adulteration practices in honey could be curbed,” claimed FSSAI via its official press note.
Additionally, FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal told PTI that: "We have notified the standards for honey and its products recently. This will help address adulteration. Both domestic manufacturers and importers will have to comply with the new norms."
The new standards are set to come into force starting January 1 2019. With all 10 major brands of honey tested falling short of FSSAI standards less than one month away from this date, Consumer VOICE may be correct in still calling honey adulteration ‘a serious economic and regulatory problem’.