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Honey Authenticity – How to Tackle the Unknown?

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July 2019. Ensuring honey authenticity is one of the great challenges in honey analytics today. Eurofins faces up to this challenge. Our Competence Center Honey offers a comprehensive authenticity check-up process to determine foreign sugar additions to honey and thus significantly reduces the risk of adulteration.

Food Fraud – Food Adulteration in Honey

Honey is a popular and relatively high-priced natural product under the suspicion of economically motivated food adulteration. The composition and properties of honey can vary widely due to its numerous varieties and origins, making the verification of honey authenticity an analytical challenge.

After the horsemeat scandal in 2013, the EU Commission has included honey in the top ten list of food most at risk of food fraud. As a result, 2237 honey samples were taken in 2015 in the EU Member States and tested for authenticity. According to the research report published by the EU Research Center (JRC), more than 14% of the samples tested did not meet the purity criteria of honey.

Challenge for Trade and Laboratories

Given the ease with which sugar syrups can be added and premium honeys stretched with cheaper varieties, it is in the interest of all parties involved in the honey trade to prevent or eliminate the economically motivated adulteration of honey. The common goal is to identify and exclude the fraudsters, to allow fair competition and to increase consumer confidence in the wonderful natural product honey.

Therefore laboratories are asked to develop appropriate methods to ensure the authenticity of honey. A variety of required methods are available for the purity control of honey. The task of the laboratories is to develop more efficient methods which offer the highest level of reliability with less efforts and at lower costs, and to determine foreign sugar additions to honey. The challenges are:

  • Development of innovative methods
  • Improvement, harmonization and simplification of existing analytical methods
  • Gathering more sample information from one analytical test
  • Providing higher efficiency in terms of short response times, higher sample throughput and more cost effective tests

Combination of Methods for Optimal Authenticity Testing

The newly developed LC-HRMS method (liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry) fulfills the desired criteria. Not all the methods can be replaced, but results in a significant reduction of required methods while

  • increasing the detection sensitivity,
  • improving the detection of added foreign sugars, in particular new types of tailor-made syrups which are not conspicuous in all other methods with up to 40% addition to honey.
  • LC-HRMS is also more cost-effective and offers faster turn-around-times for testing.

Based on the new LC-HRMS methodology and well-known honey purity testing methods, we have developed an analysis strategy that promises the highest level of reliability in honey authenticity testing:

SOTA – State Of the Art Approach 2019

SOTA combines the following methods:

Determination of

13C EA/LC-IRMS

LC-HRMS

NMR-Profiling

Pollenanalysis/
Sensory

C4 sugar

C3 sugar

Tailor made syrups

Illegal processing

F&E

Moisture reduction

F&E

Botanical and geografical origin

F&E

 

Our Recommendation for Future Testing of Honey Authenticity:

  • LC-HRMS (screening and conformation method)
  • Stabile Isotopes-MS (EA/LC-IRMS; closest to standardisation)
  • NMR (fast screening, needs to be continuously improved by database extension and harmonisation; however, confirmation of non-conform results by other methods necessary)
  • Mikroscopy (pollen spectra, foreign particles typical for adulteration) and Sensory

Because no single method is available to ensure the authenticity and purity of honey, this combination of testing methods significantly reduces the risk of inappropriate foreign sugar addition and identifies previously tailor-made and unrecognized sugar syrups being used for honey adulteration more easily. Prevention and the fight against fraudulent practices is important due to increase

  • Consumer Confidence
  • Fair Trade
  • Authentic Food
  • Food Safety

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with your personal account manager or contact us for further information.