Top branded honey producers in India, including Dabur, Patanjali, and Emami are allegedly selling adulterated honey with a modified sugar, according to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). It claims that the big brands failed an adulteration test carried out by a foreign laboratory.
Responding to these allegations, spokespersons from Dabur, Patanjali and Zandu denied that their honey products were adulterated and pointed out that they meet regulatory requirements laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
According to CSE director general Sunita Narain, the organization launched an investigation when beekeepers in North India reported reduced profits despite a spike in honey sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the CSE, the honey adulteration business has evolved to bypass existing tests. Initially, sugars from corn, sugarcane, rice and beetroot used to be added to honey to increase sweetness. Such adulteration is detected by what are known as C3 and C4 tests.
The new modified ‘Chinese sugar’, however, can only be detected by a test called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). NMR tests have very recently been made mandatory in India for honey that is meant for export.
Researchers at the CSE selected 13 top and smaller brands of processed and raw honey being sold in India. Samples from these were tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat.
Almost all, except Apis Himalaya, passed the basic tests of purity, the CSE said.
However, when the same brands were tested using NMR, which was conducted by a specialized laboratory in Germany, most brands failed. Of the 13 tested, only three brands passed the NMR test.
Saffola, MarkfedSohna and Nature’s Nectar were the brands that passed all tests.