Knowledge and awareness about authentic honey purity testing methods among honey consumers are needed ever more than before.
The reason is, that due to the high demand and limited natural honey production, even big commercial brands tend to adulterate honey.
Therefore, If you remain unaware of modern honey mixing methods and still believe in old and outdated home testing methods, you are fooling yourself and consuming adulterated honey, which will harm your immune system.
There are many conventional simple methods of testing original honey, but are they reliable?
Most of the so-called Home testing methods aim to test only the physical nature or density, if these density tests are to be believed then you may end up proving some thick sugar syrup as pure honey.
So, how do we identify pure honey? Or how to make sure the honey you are consuming is pure?
Here you will find helpful and practical knowledge of how honey adulteration is advancing and what one must look for in honey brands to get pure honey.
Let’s dive into all aspects related to honey adulteration and methods to know the purity of honey:
Table of contents
- Let’s see a few headlines related to honey adulteration:
- 1) How Is Honey Adulterated?
- 2) The Reality Of Honey Testing Methods At Home:
- 3) Routine Laboratory Methods And FSSAI Parameters (India):
- 4) Advance Internationally Accepted Tests: The Only Tests That Ensures The Purity Of Honey:
- a) 13C EA/LC-IRMS (Element analysis/Liquid chromatography isotopic ratio mass spectrometry):
- b) LC-HRMS test (liquid chromatography along with high-resolution mass spectrum):
- c) Proline Quantity:
- d) TMR (Trace Marker for Rice Syrup) and SMR (Specific Marker for Rice Syrup):
- e) NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance):
Let’s see a few headlines related to honey adulteration:
1) How Is Honey Adulterated?
Usually, honey is adulterated with cost-effective, easily available materials that pass the testing parameters in practice.
CSE (Centre For Science and Environment) says that before we imported sugar syrup from China to adulterate honey, however, Chinese technology is implanted in some Indian states to produce fructose syrup for honey adulteration purposes.
Here are a few examples:
Molasses is made by boiling sugar cane juice until it becomes thick and viscous. In earlier days, it was a common adulterant. Furthermore, it is turbid and dark in colour and tastes sweet as honey.
Factories make this thick, shiny solution for the baking and confectionaries industry. In addition, it is easily available in the market and cost-effective.
It is a thick, shiny liquid. Factories manufacture it by processing refined sugar (through acid hydrolysis). Similarly, inverted sugar has extensive use in confectionery, bakery and culinary industries too.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS):
HFCS is an advanced honey adulterant. It is the product of the processing of sweetcorn.
Both its consistency and composition are similar to honey. Thus, making it a suitable adulterant for big honey brands.
It is manufactured through the unique processing of rice. It is the most advanced and most common honey adulterant in the world.
For details refer to our blog post Types of adulterants in honey
2) The Reality Of Honey Testing Methods At Home:
Internet is filled with many home testing methods like water dissolution tests and thumb tests etc. We want to know to test pure honey in easy ways.
However, these tests judge just the physical properties of the density of a given material.
Unfortunately, these tests can give both false positives (fake honey shows positive results) and false negatives (pure honey shows negative results).
Let’s check a few home honey testing methods and their importance:
Take a glass of water and add honey slowly. If honey reaches the bottom of the glass without dissolving, then it is believed that honey is pure.
But the fact is that except for molasses, all other adulterants are dense enough to behave like pure honey. The adulterants were made deliberately thick to appear like pure honey.
Note: Unripen honey is less dense (thin consistency). Therefore it may dissolve faster in water. Hence, it can give false-negative results.
Helpful article on moisture content in natural honey
Take a matchstick, dip its tip into the honey and finally strike the stick on the matchbox to light it. If honey is pure it will light, If impure it will not light.
It depends on the presence of water (moisture) in honey. Ripe honey has lesser moisture and so as thick adulterants. Hence it can give false-positive results.
First method: Dip a small cotton ball in honey and shake off excess honey and dry it to burn on flame. It is believed that if the cotton ball is brunt it is considered pure. Second method: dip currency notes in honey and try to burn them. If the currency note doesn’t burn, honey is considered pure.
Note: Both tests are baseless because the burning tendency depends on the moisture level or thickness of the given product.
Blot Test or Flowing Test:
Take a cloth or blotting paper and pour a few drops of honey over it and make it flow. If it flows without wetting, honey is considered pure. If it wets or gets absorbed, honey is considered impure.
Again it depends on the water or moisture present in honey. Adulterants also flow on the cloth as pure honey because their density is similar to pure honey.
Honey Comb Pattern Test:
Take a little honey in a bowl, add water to it and shake it clockwise. The general belief is that pure honey forms a hexagonal shape or honeycomb-like pattern on the bottom of the container.
This is a baseless and unscientific test because all thick adulterants behave in the same manner.
Put a small drop of the honey on your thumb. Check if it spills or spreads around on your thumb. If it spreads then the honey is impure since pure honey will stay intact on your thumb.
This test can just differentiate between thin and thick honey, not its purity.
Ant Test for Honey Purity Test:
Another popular myth is that “Ants do not get attracted to pure honey”. There is no reason why ants will not get attracted to such a sweet substance. In fact, honey bees form a sticky lining of propolis to protect their hive from ants attack because ants are attracted to honey.
Dog Test to Conduct Honey Purity Test:
Many believe that dogs will not eat pure honey. The fact is that there is no reason why a hungry dog won’t eat pure honey. In some countries, people feed dogs with honey to keep them healthy.
3) Routine Laboratory Methods And FSSAI Parameters (India):
“Honey is the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or secretions of living parts of plants.
According to FSSAI, Honey should fulfil the following parameters to be called “Honey”.
FSSAI Tests For Honey:
|Specific Gravity at 27°C, Min
|Moisture, per cent by mass, Max.
|Total reducing sugars, per cent by mass, Min.
|(a) For the honey not listed below
|(b) Carviacallosa and Honeydew honey
|(c) Blends of honeydew honey with blossom honey
|Sucrose, per cent, by mass, Max
|(a) For the honey not listed below
|(b) Carviacallosa and honeydew honey, Max
|Fructose to Glucose ratio (F/G Ratio)
|Total Ash, per cent, by mass, Max.
|(a) Acidity expressed as formic acid, per cent, by mass, Max.
|(b) Free acidity milliequivalents acid / 1000 g, Max.
|Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) mg/kg, Max
|Diastase activity, Schade units per gram, Min.
|Water-insoluble matters, per cent, Max.
|(a) For the honey not listed below
|(b) For pressed honey
|C4 Sugar, per cent, by mass, Max.
|Pollen count element / g. Min.
|2- Acetylfuran-3-Glucopyranoside (2-AFGP) as Marker for Rice Syrup
|Foreign oligosaccharides (Max Percent peak)
|proline, mg/kg, Min
|(a) Honey not listed under Honeydew, Max.
|(b) Honey listed under Honeydew, Min.
CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) View:
Note: But CSE (Centre for science and environment) has proved that these parameters are not sufficient to know the purity of honey.
They found that many brands sell rice syrup in the name of honey, as they clear all the parameters set by FSSAI. Only advanced tests like TMR, SMR, NMR and LC-HRMS can detect these adulterants.
It is an important test that identifies the ageing and any heavy heating treatment to honey. Read more about the HMF test of honey and how it is helpful.
This test identifies the amount of pollen count in honey. As a result, this will help to know the botanical origin of honey.
What Is Electrical Conductivity Test:
The limitation of electrical conductivity by Codex Standard for Honey should be less than 0.8 mS/cm per 20g of honey solids when diluted with 100 ml of water.
The acidity, salt content, moisture, viscosity and honey source influence the electrical conductivity of honey.
4) Advance Internationally Accepted Tests: The Only Tests That Ensures The Purity Of Honey:
Following are a few advanced laboratory tests which are introduced to identify advanced adulterants:
Let’s check which advanced test can identify which adulterant.
|Illegal Resin processing
|Botanical and Geographical Origin
a) 13C EA/LC-IRMS (Element analysis/Liquid chromatography isotopic ratio mass spectrometry):
By comparing the individual deviations between δ13C values of different honey fractions, C4 sugars & Foreign oligosaccharides can be identified.
b) LC-HRMS test (liquid chromatography along with high-resolution mass spectrum):
This advanced test focuses on different artificial sugar syrups like C3, C4 and tailor-made synthetic syrups.
c) Proline Quantity:
Proline is the dominant amino acid in honey. It has been considered an indicator of honey quality. Natural honey should have atleast180mg of proline content per Kg. If the proline test value is less than 180mg, then it indicates adulteration in honey.
d) TMR (Trace Marker for Rice Syrup) and SMR (Specific Marker for Rice Syrup):
These tests are invented to specifically detect rice syrup adulteration in honey.
The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance test is an analytical technic to determine the purity, botanical and geographical origin of honey.
With the above-advanced test checklist, you can check which brand of honey is pure in India.
Selling adulterated honey is a crime. Therefore, the Government of India should make the NMR test for honey mandatory for big and local brands.
As a result, we can catch honey adulteration before consumers buy honey in the market.
Awareness of authentic honey testing methods and the inclusion of advanced analytical technics in FSSAI parameters are needed to curb honey adulteration in India.
More Knowledgeable Resources:
- Crystallization of Honey is a Natural Phenomenon
- What is the NMR test for Honey
- C3 And C4 Sugar Adulterants In Honey