“How to Check if Honey is Pure or Adulterated?” – Honey Purity Test

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Knowledge and awareness about authentic honey purity testing methods are needed ever than before.

Unfortunately, due to the high demand and limited natural honey production, Even big brands tend to adulterate honey.

Let’s see a few headlines related to honey adulteration:

Your fancy honey might not actually be honey

Tests show most store honey isn’t honey

A food lab analyzed 110 commonly available honey products and found more than 70 % were ‘adulterated’

10 out of 10 brands violate FSSAI standard

There are many conventional simple methods of testing original honey, but are they reliable?

Most of the so-called Home testing methods aims 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 to make sure the honey you are consuming is pure?

Let’s dive into all aspects related to honey adulteration and methods to know the purity of honey:

1) How is honey adulterated?

Usually, honey is adulterated with cost-effective, easily available materials that pass the testing parameters in practice. Here are a few examples:

Molasses as honey adulterant

 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.

 

Honey adulterant liquid glucose

Liquid Glucose: Factories made this thick, shiny solution for the baking and confectionaries industry. In addition, it is easily available in the market and cost-effective.

Invert sugar adulterant

Invert Sugar is a thick, shiny liquid. Factories manufacture it by processing refined sugar (through acid hydrolysis). Similarly, invert sugar has extensive use in confectionery, bakery and culinary industries too.

HFCS adulterant

High fructose corn syrup 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.

 

Rice Syrup adulterant

Rice syrup 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 test and thumb test etc.

However, these tests judge just the physical properties of the density of a given material.

Unfortunately, these tests can give both false positive (fake honey shows positive results) and false negative (pure honey shows negative results).

Let’s check a few home honey testing methods and their importance:

Does honey dissolve in water

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 as 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 

does honey burn

Take a matchstick and 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.

Honey flame test

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.

Honey 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 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.

Honey Thumb test

Put a small drop of the honey on your thumb. Check if it spills or spread 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.

Honey ant 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.

Honey dog test

Many believe that dogs will not eat pure honey. The fact is 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”.

S.NoParametersLimit
1.Specific Gravity at 27°C, Min 1.35
2.Moisture, per cent by mass, Max.20
3.Total reducing sugars, per cent by mass, Min.
(a) For the honey not listed below65
(b) Carviacallosa and Honeydew honey60
(c) Blends of honeydew honey with blossom honey45
4.Sucrose, per cent, by mass, Max
(a) For the honey not listed below5.0
(b) Carviacallosa and honeydew honey, Max10
5.Fructose to Glucose ratio (F/G Ratio)0.95-1.50
6.Total Ash, per cent, by mass, Max.0.50
7. (a) Acidity expressed as formic acid, per cent, by mass, Max.0.20
(b) Free acidity milliequivalents acid / 1000 g, Max.50.0
8.Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) mg/kg, Max80.0
9.Diastase activity, Schade units per gram, Min.3
10.Water-insoluble matters, per cent, Max.
(a) For the honey not listed below0.10
(b) For pressed honey0.5
11.C4 Sugar, per cent, by mass, Max.7.0
12.Pollen count element / g. Min.5000
13. 2- Acetylfuran-3-Glucopyranoside (2-AFGP) as Marker for Rice SyrupAbsent**
14.Foreign oligosaccharides (Max Percent peak)0.7
15.proline, mg/kg, Min180
16.Electrical conductivity:
(a) Honey not listed under Honeydew, Max.0.8 mS/cm
(b) Honey listed under Honeydew, Min. 0.8 mS/cm

Note: But CSE (Centre of 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.

4) Advance internationally accepted tests.

Following are a few advanced laboratory tests which are introduced to identify advanced adulterants:

Let’s check which advanced test can identify which adulterant.

DETECTION OF13C EA/
LC-IRMS
LC-HRMSNMR TEST
C3 SugarSomewhat effective Very effective Somewhat effective
C4 SugarVery effective Very effective Somewhat effective
Tailor-made syrupNot effective Very effective Not effective
Illegal Resin processing Not effective Not effective Very effective
Moisture Reduction Not effective Not effective Somewhat effective
Botanical and Geographical Origin Not effective Not effective Very effective

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 syrup.

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.

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.  

e) NMR ( Nuclear Magnetic Resonance):

 The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance test is an analytical technic to determine the purity, botanical and geographical origin of honey.

Conclusion:

Awareness of authentic honey testing methods and the inclusion of advanced analytical technics in FSSAI parameters are needed to curb honey adulteration in India. 

Bharat Honey is 100% Pure honey collected from the source and tested in INTERTEK (Germany) Laboratory. View laboratory reports

4 responses to ““How to Check if Honey is Pure or Adulterated?” – Honey Purity Test”

  1. I bought honey from one of the local catcher. I tried all these old testing methods. Mostly passed too. Kept in an stainless steel container. After some months later, it become very hard. Kind of cake. If I keep in sunlight, started melting. Smell & taste everything looks real honey. Totally confused. Did I fail in procuring fake adulterated honey. Please suggest.

    • Don’t worry Crystallization of honey is a natural phenomenon. If honey gets crystallized, there are more chance that it’s pure.

  2. What is the chance that honey that has crystallized is pure? I bought a brand that crystallizes that is being sued for adding things to their honey. I have a good science background. Thank you for your time!

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