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Let's give a toast for tropical honey

Greetings from Asia! My name is Cleo Cervancia, a Professor from the University of the Philippines Los Banos and currently the President of Apimondia Regional Commission for Asia. In 2014, our topic was on stingless bees and how to produce and collect honey, pollen and propolis from stingless bees. Now, we are inviting you once again to join the discussion on tropical honey, especially the honey produced in Asia.  Our aim is to establish honey standard including for wild honey from giant bees and stingless bees. Quality standards for honey are needed to produce better quality of honey, safeguard consumer’s health and gain consumer’s trust that they are purchasing quality and safe products, and ensure that honey and the way it is produced meets the legislative policy, and ethical requirements of importing countries for food safety, consumer protection, environmental protection, and worker’s welfare (Partap et al 2012).

Do you believe that not all honey is equal? The plant sources, type of bees and environment are major factors that explain why not all honeys are not the same.  It is for this reason that we need to harmonize tropical honey standards set by each country to further improve its quality. Moreover, standards are used for marketing purposes. The consumers have the right to know the quality of the product they are getting.

As you might know, there are existing standards for honey based on Codex Alimentarius and EU honey directive.  However, the criteria set by EU directives are based on honey produced by western species of honey bees, Apis mellifera. So this means that according to EU honey directive, all honey produced by bees that are not Apis mellifera (or the European honey bee) cannot be sold as honey.   Considering the diverse bee species and vegetation in the tropics, it is about time to establish separate standard for the tropical honey.  In the Hindu Kush Himalayan countries, only China, India and Nepal have developed quality assurance systems for honey. The Philippines has also crafted standard for honey. The aim of harmonization is to find commonalities, identify the critical requirements  that need to be retained, and provide a common standard for the Asian region. 

The following topics will be covered in this discussion:

I.                  Introduction : Definition of honey and How honey is produced

II.                 Species of honey producing bees

III.                Physico-chemical characteristics of tropical honey

IV.                Proposed standard for tropical honey

V.                 Synthesis

We invite you to join the discussion which will run from 7 October to 7 November 2016 to ask questions and most importantly to share your knowledge !




Message posted on behalf of Lucille Faroden

Honey is of the most expensive food because of its high nutritive content. As a consumer I am not sure of the quality of honey being sold in the market, grocery stores, sidewalks or by peddlers which either from cultured bees (western honeybees, native bees) or gathered in the wild (giant bees and stingless). Therefore, a need for a quality standard should be set. In Asia particularly the Philippines we have a diverse wild bee species, locals gather and store honey in bottles that are available at home and sell with no presentable labels. As such I always doubt of its quality especially so that it is expensive. Having quality standard of our honeys that would start from the process of conserving, culturing and harvesting until reaches the market should be established so the importance and value of our local honey will be known around the world.

Thank you.


Thank you Steve for your contribution. The EU honey standard is very very restrictive. Stiff commpetition to enter this market but once you get into this market you must know you that you have gained competitive advantage. I am working hard to get into this market by trying to produce organic honey which is on demand at this market. Just working on increasing the volumes.



Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of Apimondia , University of the Philippines Los Banos and the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Research,  we  wish to express our  thanks to those who  participated in this discussion and others who took time to read our posts. We also thank beekeepers, farmers, students  and  bee researchers who sent emails regarding the topic. Rest assured that your suggestions  will be considered  in crafting the final draft of the proposed standard.

With the data that we received, we are pleased to extend the discussion until Nov. 30, 2016. This will allow us to prepare the final draft which will be sent to you and other stakeholders for further comments.

Best regards,

cleo cervancia







My wife and I would like to venture into soaps, lotions and other cosmetic products and would like to incorporate honey as a key component. Do we have Standards for Cosmetic Grade Honey?


Thank You.


Dear Romeo,

Cosmetic grade honey  and  food grade honey is identical. You can refer to the link below for details:


CODEX STAN 180-1991,  Standard for Labelling of and Claims for Food for Special Medical Purposes.



cleo cervancia



Hello everyone!

I am Angel Bautista VII from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute. Our laboratory is currently thinking of starting a research project that can distinguish natural from adulterated honey using stable isotope techniques (measured by an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry or IRMS).

The main premise is that if a honey sample is purely natural, the Carbon-13 isotopic signature of both the bulk honey (the sugars) and its protein content (mainly from the pollen) should be the similar, because they should be coming from the same plants. However, if additional sugars (coming from totally different plants, with totally different geographical origin) are introduced to the honey sample, the C-13 signature of the bulk honey is expected to differ from its native protein content.

This technique has an edge over conventional methods because it strictly requires that both the sugars and the protein content of the honey sample come from the same origin (as it is, if the honey is pure and natural). One could introduce exactly the same sugar content, proportion, or chemical identity and/or some pollen content to the honey sample, but if the C-13 isotopic signature is different, then it would fail the analytical test. Thus, we think that this technique would be a welcome addition to the conventional methods of honey authentication.

What do you think of this research proposal? We would greatly appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you very much!


Dear Angel,


I will share with others our discussion on the use of isotope techniques. Actually, it is a very sound method. and is commonly used by honey producers in Europe.


We have collected artisanal honey for your trials- honey from stingless bees, Apis cerana, A. mellifera, A. breviligula and A. dorsata. Our university will fully support you with your project.  Get samples from commercial honeys sold in major supermarkets.


We wish you all the best. Carry on.


cleo cervancia




I came across a book entitled Pot - Honey A Legacy of Stingless Bees by Dr. Patricia Vit. With her permission, i am sharing with you a portion of her book. Summary of Meliponine and Apis Honey Composition.

Hope this would help in making Standards for Tropical Honey






The book written by Dr. Vit and her colleagues is a very source of information on various aspects on the biology of stingless bees.

We highly recommend this book to all researchers and enthusiasts.


cleo cervancia


Dear Colleagues,

I have consolidated  all inputs from this plarform and those from colleagues in the academe and industry. We made the Codex Standard for Honey , Philippine National Standard for Honey , publications of Patricia Vit and Uma Partap  and other published literature as references.

Herewith are the revisions:

a. revised the definition of honey to cover other species of bees, such as Apis cerana, giant bees and stingless bees.

b. Increased the moisture content level to 23% for wild honey and 30% for stingless bee honeys.

This proposal is still subject for review and further deliberation. Please send your comments to this email:



 On behalf of Apimondia, Asian Apicultural Association,  University of the Philippines Los Banos Department of Agriculture,(BAR and BAFS), we wish to thank   all those who supported this discussion. Special thanks to Charlotte Lietaer and Ricarrdo Jannoni Sebastinini for continued support and motivation.


Sincerely yours,

cleo cervancia