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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:
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:
Usually, honey is adulterated with cost-effective, easily available materials that pass the testing parameters in practice. 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.
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 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.
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 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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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”.
|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 below||65|
|(b) Carviacallosa and Honeydew honey||60|
|(c) Blends of honeydew honey with blossom honey||45|
|4.||Sucrose, per cent, by mass, Max|
|(a) For the honey not listed below||5.0|
|(b) Carviacallosa and honeydew honey, Max||10|
|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, Max||80.0|
|9.||Diastase activity, Schade units per gram, Min.||3|
|10.||Water-insoluble matters, per cent, Max.|
|(a) For the honey not listed below||0.10|
|(b) For pressed honey||0.5|
|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 Syrup||Absent**|
|14.||Foreign oligosaccharides (Max Percent peak)||0.7|
|15.||proline, mg/kg, Min||180|
|(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.
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 OF||13C EA/|
|C3 Sugar||Somewhat effective||Very effective||Somewhat effective|
|C4 Sugar||Very effective||Very effective||Somewhat effective|
|Tailor-made syrup||Not 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.
The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance test is an analytical technic to determine the purity, botanical and geographical origin of honey.
Awareness of authentic honey testing methods and the inclusion of advanced analytical technics in FSSAI parameters are needed to curb honey adulteration in India.