Checking the purity of honey is not as easy as shown by many websites. They show simple tests like water test, thumb test, burn test, drop on cloth test, hexagon on the bottom test, Ant test, dog test etc…
Being more than three decades in the industry, We can tell you with authority that, It is mere stupidity to trust these tests for checking the purity of honey. It matters a lot to know this misbelief about honey because honey is good for you.
These conventional tests examine only Physical nature of honey. That is why most of the adulterant passes these tests easily. These tests are unreliable and misleading. It may give both false-positive and false-negative results.
Just imagine If the purity testing is that easy. then why is the honey adulteration so common.
Then you may come up with a question – Then how to make sure the honey I am consuming is pure?
Let’s move on to get the answer. Before that just ? consider this
- 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
Honey is susceptible to adulteration because of Increasing demand and limited production. Adulteration of honey by brands is easy because there are many flaws in the regulatory parameters.
How to check If honey is pure or adulterated (Hindi)
How to check If honey is pure or adulterated (English)
How the old Honey purity testing methods failed?
If search the term “How to check the purity of honey at home?” You will get the following list of tests. Let’s analyse one by one.
These honey testing methods are in use since ages. But they can merely differentiate between thin and thick honey.
Solubility test: (Water Test) ❌
The procedure of the test –
Take a glass of water and add honey slowly.
If honey reaches the bottom and dissolves lately, then that honey is pure.
The FACT of solubility test
However, not many know that, except molasses, all other adulterants behave in the same manner as pure honey, as the solubility depends on the thickness of a given product. The adulterant made deliberately thick to appear as pure honey. Hence this test is a misleading test.
False-positive result: All synthetic honey are made thicker enough to appear like honey. sometimes synthetic honey is made thicker than honey, which is even more difficult to dissolve in water. This gives a false impression of the best quality honey.
False-negative result: Natural honey of certain season have moisture level above 18%. It appears thinner and dissolves in water faster. This gives a false impression of impure honey. If only the water test is to be believed.
Please refer our blog post moisture content in natural honey for details.
Flame test: ❌
The procedure of the test:
- Take a matchstick
- Dip its tip into the honey
- Strike the stick on the matchbox to light it
If honey is pure it will light, If impure it will not light.
FACT of Flame test:
Whether match stick will light or not depends on the presence of water (moisture) in honey. Ripe honey has lesser moisture hence it will light. Even the thick adulterant behave in the same manner as it has less moisture. Hence it can give false-positive results.
Flame test or Burn Test : ❌
Using this trick fake honey is sold in Indian streets.
- Dip a small Cotton boll in honey. shake off excess and try to burn it on flame.
- Dip currency note in honey and try to burn it.
- Cotton boll will catch fire if honey is pure.
- Currency note will not burn if honey is pure.
FACT of Burn test:
This is a baseless and misleading test, as the burning tendency depends on the moisture level or thickness of the given product.
- Cotton boll Catching fire: All Carbohydrates can catch fire. The only hurdle is the presence of water. Honey does contain water up to 18% so as any other adulterant. Initially, the flame will dry out the water then starts burning. Unripe honey gives false-negative result whereas thick adulterant can give a false-positive result.
- Currency notes not burning: If a thick layer is applied on the currency note whether honey or any other adulterant. it will not burn for a while.
Flowing test: (Blot test) ❌
Procedure – Take a cloth or blotting paper and pour a few drops of honey over that cloth and made to flow.
Inference – Honey is considered pure if it flows without wetting the cloth. Honey is considered fake if it gets absorbed or leave a wet mark.
FACT of flowing test:
Flowing without leaving a wet mark does not prove it’s purity. It dependes on the water or moisture present in honey. All thick adulterant behaves in the same manner.
Therefore this is a misleading test.
Honeycomb shape in the bottom: ❌
This test is popular on the internet: take a little honey in an open mouth container, add water to it and shaking 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.
Thumb Test: ❌
procedure: 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.
FACT : This test can just differentiate between thin and thick honey.
Ant test: ❌
“Ants do not get attracted to pure honey”.There is another popular myth.
Again this is a baseless myth, as there is no reason why ants will not get attracted towards such a sweet substance.
In fact, honey bees form a sticky lining of propolis, to protect its hive from the attack of ants and insects. All this because ants attracted to the honey.
Dog test: ❌
This is another popular myth that says that dogs will not eat pure honey. It is again a baseless myth as there is no reason why a hungry dog will not eat pure honey. Of course, if the dog isn’t hungry, it’s not going to eat anything, whether it’s honey or not!
In some countries people feed honey to dogs to keep them healthy.
Types of Honey adulterants.
The purity testing of honey mainly done by ruling out the presence of possible adulterants. Therefore one should be aware of types of adulterants which can be used in honey.
Being more than three decades in the industry, we closely observe the type and level of adulteration used in the market.
Following are Common honey adulterants.
For details of each adulterant and method to identify it click here.
Let’s go through the listing & brief explanation here.
- Liquid glucose
- Invert sugar
- HFCS (High fructose corn syrup)
- Rice syrup
In earlier days, molasses was the common adulterant. But it is no longer in use because it readily dissolves in water and smells like jaggery.
Factories made this thick shiny solution for baking and confectionaries industry.
invert sugar is thick, shiny liquid. factories manufacture it by processing refined sugar.
honey grade invert sugar has sold with this as an adulterant
High Fructose corn syrup:
High fructose corn syrup is the product of the processing of sweetcorn, making its consistency similar to honey. it has been used in culinary.
rice syrup is a common and widely used adulterant of honey, manufactured through unique processing of rice.
numerous honey brands in India use rice syrup in large scale as an adulterant.
3) Routine Laboratory tests for ”checking the purity of honey”
To really check the purity of honey, go to the laboratory for advance tests. Yes, only laboratory tests can tell you which honey is pure.
But the irony in India is, the laboratory parameters have become old. and the newer one not implemented yet.
Here we will discuss both old and newer parameters:
Please note that the procedure of each test is not in the scope of this article, as it may be very long and irrelevant to non-technical persons.
following is the List of tests for checking the purity of honey.
• Fiehe’s Test:
A negative result indicates the absence of adulteration.
• Aniline chloride tests:
A negative test indicates the absence of adulterations.
• Specific gravity:
To identify the thickness of honey
• Moisture content:
To identify the moisture content or thickness of honey.
• Total reducing sugar:
Value less than 65% indicates adulteration
• Presence of sucrose:
Value less than 5% indicates adulteration
• Fructose-glucose ratio :
Normal range is .95-1.2 – any deviation indicates adulteration.
• Total ash:
More than 0.5% indicates the presence of impurities.
• Hydroxymethylfurfural content:
Max limit is 80mm/kg
• Water-insoluble matters:
More than 0.1% indicates external impurities
• Bee pollen count:
Should be at least 50,000 per gm
• Acidity (as formic acid):
0.2% and free acidity less than 50 milliequelant per kg
Old tests are sufficient to detect adulterants like molasses, liquid glucose and invert sugar. But these tests can not identify high fructose corn syrup and rice syrup.
This significant flaw in the testing parameters has encouraged many brands to sell fake or adulterated honey.
4) Advanced laboratory tests for checking the purity of honey.
(These parameters are not present in fssai yet )
– Carbon isotope test (For C4 sugars):
More than 7% indicates adulteration with sugar, either fed to honey bees or added externally.
– Proline quantity:
less than 200mg/kg indicates adulteration in honey
– Electrical conductivity:
More than 0.8 millisiemens /s indicates adulteration
– Diastase activity:
should be at least 80 scade unit
– Foreign oligosaccharides:
The presence of foreign oligosaccharides indicates the presence of rice syrup.
– special marker for rice syrup (SMR):
Liquid chromatography test to identify rice syrup
– Trace marker for rice syrup (TMR):
Liquid chromatography test to identify rice syrup
– Nuclear Magnetic resonance test (NMR):
Most advanced test to identify all types of adulterants.
Implementation of these testing parameters will decrease the adulteration practice in honey, at least in the organised sector or in big brands. Once implemented, we may find a marked decrease in the quantity of honey sold on the shelves of the supermarket.
5) How can I buy real Honey?
(Things to remember when buying honey)
Everyone wants the best honey brands. But the reality is ”Raw honey” is usually not available freely in the supermarket.
Meanwhile, we have a few suggestions for you to choose real honey.
– Look for the local source of honey:
Be it a wild bee’s honey or beekeepers or apiary honey.
While buying wild bee honey, keep in mind that it will be cloudy, and not shiny or transparent.
While buying beekeepers’ or apiary honey, you should make sure that the honey has a taste and aroma specific to that area.
If it is difficult to find local honey, then do the following …
– Search for a brand which has direct access to the source of honey
and can provide you varieties of honey. It is always wise to demand varieties because synthetic or adulterated brands cannot offer you varieties of honey. This answers the question of how to make sure that honey is pure?.
– “Don’t fall prey to ultra-clear shiny honey”.
Another instruction to keep in mind is “Don’t fall prey to ultra-clear shiny honey”. Always remember, natural honey has bee pollen content.
– Smell the honey immediately after opening the lid
Another small technique which I use personally is to smell the honey immediately after opening the lid. Natural honey has a smell which gives a hint of the source of flowers. Whereas the fake honey usually has a plain sugary smell unless some honey flavour is added. Of course, a little experience may help, but as the different area honey has a distinct aroma, you need to be familiar with each area’s honey.
– Never reject Crystallised Honey
One more thing to keep in mind that, Crystallisation of honey is a natural phenomenon.
People assume crystallised honey as fake or adulterated.
The fact is that natural honey, especially in raw form, crystallises sooner or later, depending on the source of flowers.
Armed with this knowledge, when you go out to buy honey, you are now more likely to select pure honey.