C3 And C4 Sugar Adulterants In Honey

C3 & C4 Honey adulteration

Honey adulteration takes place using cheap sugar syrup sweeteners made from C3 and C4 sugar plants to match the sweetness of honey. These syrups are harmful to health as it just contains processed sugar.

However, Natural Honey is healthy because it comes from natural ways where honeybees make honey from the nectar of flowers and add their enzymes to make honey.

Therefore, Natural Honey includes natural sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose. Honey is sweeter because of its high fructose content in it.

The recent report of the consumer Affairs ministry revealed that just ONE honey brand out of TEN passed the C4 sugar test. The other NINE big honey brands failed the C4 test. It is worrying!

It means that most honey brands in India adulterate honey using cheap sugar syrup from the C4 sugar plant.

Let’s find out the C3 sugar and C4 sugar plants:

Sugar syrup is made from C3 sugar plantsInvert Sugar is made from C4 Sugar
Rice, Wheat, Sugar Beet.Sugar Cane, Maize or Corn

Sugar syrup made from C4 and C3 sugars are direct adulterants which mean they are added directly to the honey to increase its quantity.

Both Sugar syrup and honey are sweeteners but differ in health profile:

C3 and C4 plants have natural sugar, however, when they are used to make sugar syrup through harsh processing, it becomes toxic. Honey adulteration happens using these toxic sugar syrups.

Whereas natural honey comes from honeybees. They make it from the nectar of different plant flowers and mix them with their natural enzymes to produce honey. Full of nutrients and healthy for humans.

C3 and C4 Sugar, serious honey laundering the world face today:

Sugar made from corn or beet syrup imported from China has become so common and a known threat across the world. It is, in fact affecting genuine beekeepers around the world.

Reuters report that the US has increased the tariff on Chinese honey to lower its reach to consumers because it is 100% adulterated with C3 or C4 plants sugar.

Which tests help us detect C3 and C4 sugar types in honey:

The carbon Isotope test helps detect adulterants from C4 sugar plants. This test measures the ratio of naturally forming carbon -12 and carbon -13 isotopes found in sugar from C4 sugar plants.

Natural honey in the Carbon Isotope test shouldn’t contain C4 plant sugar of more than 7%. If so, then the honey is adulterated with inverted sugar.

The NMR test to detect C3 and C4 adulterants in honey:

The NMR test helps to identify honey purity by scanning the botanical and geographical origins of honey.

Therefore, it will help us to know the exact source of nectar and from which plants and flowers honeybees collected it.

However, this NMR test is somewhat effective to detect sugar adulterants in honey from C3 and C4 sugar plants.

LC-HRMS detects C3 and C4 sugar adulterants in honey effectively:

It is an advanced testing method that screens honey at the molecular level for C4, C3 and any other tailor-made sugar syrup adulterants in honey.

It has the capacity of screening nearly 15000 sugar compounds to detect honey adulterated with sugar.

When testing the purity of honey, data indicates that LC-HRMS has detected more than 4000 sugar adulterant markers so far.

There is also an indirect way of honey adulteration where honeybees are fed sugar syrup and given antibiotics. Let’s check more about it.


Sugar syrup for honey adulteration is becoming more advanced. Therefore, advanced tests like NMR and LC-HRMS are essential to detect them. You may also find our resource on how to check the purity of honey helpful.

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