Agri Business

CSE ‘sting’: Most honey brands ‘adulterated with sugar syrup’

Our Bureau / PTI New Delhi | Updated on December 03, 2020

Majors call it plot to discredit industry

This is, at least, what the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says its investigation has found. According to the ‘sting’ report, sugar syrup adulteration of honey is rampant in most major and lesser-known brands.

Sharing the findings with media, CSE Director-General Sunita Narain said the investigation found that the honey sold by 10 out of 13 brands in Indian markets are adulterated with sugar syrup. A total 22 samples of the 13 brands were taken for the study.


However, major honey brands dismissed the charge, alleging the report is “motivated” and “a plot to defame the Indian natural honey industry”.

Interestingly, two years back, a study by Consumer Voice, which tested 10 top honey brands, too found that all of them suffered from purity and authenticity issues.

The modus operandi

CSE’s investigations also found how modified sugar syrup was being clandestinely imported into India from China, how honey adulterated with this syrup managed to pass tests certified by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and, finally, how Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) tests managed to expose the adulteration. Interestingly, the FSSAI uses the gold standard NMR test only for testing honey that is exported from India, not for that consumed domestically.

“We make 100 per cent natural honey, which has tested pure on more than 100 standards laid down by FSSAI. It seems to be a plot to defame India’s natural honey industry and manufacturers in a bid to promote processed honey,” said Acharya Balakrishan, MD, Patanjali Ayurved.

A spokesperson for Dabur India said: “The recent reports seem motivated and aimed at maligning our brand. We assure our consumers that Dabur Honey is 100 per cent pure...We also assure our consumers that Dabur does not import any honey/syrup from China and our honey is sourced entirely from Indian beekeepers.”

A statement from Emami said its Zandu adheres to all the protocols and quality standards laid down by the FSSAI.



Samples of these brands were first tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment, almost all the top brands passed the tests of purity, while a few smaller brands failed the tests to detect C4 sugar--it is the basic adulteration using cane sugar.

“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.

Tracking down adulteration

The CSE also claimed that it tracked down Chinese trade portals which were advertising fructose syrup that can bypass tests to check adulteration. It also found that the same Chinese companies that advertised this fructose syrup that can beat C3 and C4 tests were also exported to India.

CSE director general Sunita Narain 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, 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.

Published on December 02, 2020

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