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Aspects of honey adulteration - how to prevent the fraud

We have the pleasure to announce a new moderated discussion which will take place from 14 April to 14 May 2017 and will be about the adulteration of honey.  The discussion will be moderated by Etienne Bruneau, agronomist, manager of CARI, a beekeeping centre for research and information based in Belgium and President of the Apimondia Commission for Technology and Quality.

Very few beekeepers are aware of the world situation of the honey market. Today the situation is very surprising because we observe a decrease of the productivity in a lot of countries, including in countries that generally are important honey producers (North America and Europe, Argentina, etc.), an increase of the global consumption of honey and decreasing honey prices. We can explain this decrease in price by a quick increase of the exportation of the 7 main honey export countries of the Eastern hemisphere (196% from 2007 to 2013).

So: while the total number of hives in the world is only slowly increasing (± 1,3% per year) and in many parts of the world a decrease in productivity is observed, statistics show that the amount of honey produced in the whole world increases every year by 2,5%. This increase of productivity is mostly observed in Asia and more specifically in China, the most important producer and exporter of honey. How can this increase in productivity in Asia be explained while in other parts of the world, the productivity is decreasing?  Another possible explanation for the increase in production could be the introduction of “false” or “adulterated” honey on the world market?

We will try to analyse this situation during the next 4 weeks. First of all we will give you a global overview of the honey market and of the production in different countries. We will then look at the techniques currently used by the labs to detect adulterated honey, their validity and limits. We will also provide some figures about adulterated honey that has been detected by the relevant authorities at ports. The third step will be to present what we can do to decrease or even to stop adulteration of honey. An analysis of the global situation from the producer to the consumer will underline the key points where concrete actions can be taken to decrease the interest to adulterate honey and to realize a better control of the market. Here all your suggestions will be welcome.

The objectives of the discussion are to inform the beekeepers and all the persons working in the honey value chain of the situation of the international market. We want to make them aware of the importance of the phenomenon of adulteration and the difficulty of detecting it in certain cases. All beekeepers are affected by this problem, which can affect them either directly (detection of returns of feeding syrups) or indirectly by a decrease in prices on the wholesale market.

We are inviting you to join the discussion, to share information and to ask questions to the expert. Please also feel free to forward the invitation to friends and colleagues.

Best wishes,

Charlotte

Comments

Ashish Gupta's picture

In keeping with tracebility - given the current affairs around Pestcides and GMOs it is also important to indicate in the label for tracebility if the pollen and nectar could have been contaminated by GMOs or pesticides. This should not remain implicit within the words, since customers have the complete right to know before hand of the possibility of consuming any honey that may have been adultraded with pesticides, antibiotics and more recently GMOs. 

 

Since the art of beekeeping has been exact enough to create decide where the bees will forage (especially cultivated honey as opposed to polyfloral forest honey) - the beekeeper will know if the hives are exposed to the environment where they have a potential contaimination chance. On knowing this if the information is not made available, then it is not a production related problem but deliberate contamination and adultrarion which would have been within manner of control but done away with anyways.

 

Eventually, all other forms of adultration should include known aspect in production as well. A large part of branded honeys sold in India are blended as well, so the issue of tracebility faces opaque blocks which need to be checked in current context. Invert sugars from China are seemingly flooding Indian honey with the manufacturuers  also caliming that it will pass the checks of Food Safety regulations. 

It is not enough to create new niches in the market and ignore old maladies, new markets take time to create till then the standards and safety measures will have to be modified given current market experiences. For a country like India to cater to a population to a billion of honey consumers, with just not enough beekeepers or production makes one wonder how and in what conditions the demand is really being fulfilled. 

If the consumer has complete and transparent information, only then can they decide whether to be part of the supply system or not - the information should also include deliberate contamination by setting up hives in area which is known to be sprayed by pesticides or has a GMO crop.

 

Ashish

Dear Qingyun Diao,

Thank you for your rich explanation who give answer to a lot of questions and who show the investments of China for beekeeping. I hope that this exemple can give ideas to other countries. It will be great if we can use these informations to inform beekeepers in UE. 

Do you have informations about techniques used by the beekeepers to harvest honey and problems that can be faced by them ?

We hear that in some part of Asia beekeepers harvest unripe honey. Some honeys seem to have been filtered on resins. Can you help us to clarify these points ? What's the official position of China in front of these practises ? Do they accepts to import these honeys ? 

Thank you again and looking forward to hearing more from you and colleagues.

Best wishes

Etienne

 

Dear Dr. Etienne Bruneau,

Thanks for your comments  and sorry for replying late.

About the harvest of honey in China, there is manually extractor and electricity extractor. Most beekeepers used two frames manually extractor because it is small and easy to carry. Some beekeepers used four frames, six frames and eight frames electricity extractor. There is difference between Chinese and European, American honey collecting method because of different producing method.In China,customers prefer uniflorous honey. Some uniflorous plant has not enough blooming time to get the natural ripe honey.This is the problem for beekeepers to harvest the mature honey.

I did not hear the honey filtered by resins and had no idea about it.

Best wishes!

Your Sincerely,Qingyun Diao  

 

Thank you for this clear answer which once again allows us to better understand the situation in your country. It would be really useful to find a concrete solution to this situation in order to allow beekeepers to improve the quality of their honeys.  They have to avoid extraction honeys of harvested too wet with all the risks of fermentation that are linked to them.

 

Best wishes too

Etienne Bruneau

Dear Ashish Gupta, thank you for your comments. It's sure that each country is different and that India is very specific. Problems of adulteration are nor directly liked to the international market. Sensibilization of consumers must be a very big challenge and must take a lot of energy and time. The priority must be put on the internal controls if it's possible. The detection and control of sources of production and distribution of syrup can be one way, but it's just an idea because I don't know India.

It is difficult to put in place a traceability of pesticides and GMO zones because no one beekeeper will tell spontaneously that his honey risk to be contaminated. It's always better to work in the positive way and to ask to beekeepers to label their honey if they are coming from natural zones without pesticides and GMO. It can be great to develop a commercial circuit based on honey produced in these conditions. Organic beekeeping use this kind of approach and need to be developed in the future. 

Etienne

Dear all,

I hope that this discussion on honey fraud has enabled the you to better understand the current situation. It is a complex issue and I am aware that in this discussion we have only briefly touched upon the many aspects involved. I thank the various stakeholders for their constructive contributions. As you can see, this is a very fast-moving topic that varies according to the conditions of production and consumption in the various exporting and importing countries. I hope that all this will be only a starting point in the fight against adulteration which will require the interventions of many actors on the ground. Even if this work is likely to take several years, it is urgent to devote the necessary resources to it in order to ensure for the beekeeping sector to fully develop in the world. 

At the European level at the end of May a civil dialog group with the Commission will be organized. One point is dedicated to honey adulteration. I hope to be able to share an update on this meeting here with you. The COPA-COGECA (European farmer syndicate) sent a letter to the Commission with some suggestions to fight adulteration (more controls, traceability, improvement of the techniques and/or accreditation of techniques, information for beekeepers on how to avoid feeding sugar in supers, creation of a honeys bank, etc.) and we will see what we can do.

At Apimondia level, there is a specific Working group on adulteration (AWG 6 – see attached). Those who want to collaborate can take part of this group can contact Norberto Garcia, president of the AWG. During the next Apimondia Congress in Turkey, a round table will be organized on adulteration (Beekeeping technology and quality commission). You can also make a presentation or present a poster during the congress.  Abstracts should be submitted (http://www.apimondia2017.org/default.asp?p=abstract) by 28 May 2017.  The door stays open if you have ideas for new actions or if you can get information on the situation in your country, kindly contact the Apimondia Working Group and we can send you a survey made by the working group of Apimondia.

I would like to thank you all again for your contributions and for following this discussion and would like to close by reminding you that adulteration in beekeeping can be stopped if we join forces !

All the best,

Etienne Bruneau

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