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    'Honeygate': CSE alleges most top brands sell adulterated honey

    healthcare | IST

    'Honeygate': CSE alleges most top brands sell adulterated honey

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    Investigations done by research house Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) with laboratory studies in India and Germany have revealed rampant adulteration in honey sold by major brands in India. Almost all brands of honey being sold in Indian markets are adulterated with sugar syrup, it says.

    Several brands of honey in India, including leading names such as Dabur and Patanjali, sell honey laced with sugar syrup, an investigation by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) claims.
    CSE is the firm that had brought to light the issue of pesticides in cola and antibiotics in honey in the past.
    At a press conference, CSE chief Sunita Narain said the firm had sent samples of 13 labs for testing at a German lab for advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR), where only three brands Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Societe Naturelle passed the adulteration test. One batch of Nature's Hectar passed the test while another failed it.
    The brands that failed the test, including those whose multiple batches were tested, are Dabur, Patanjali, Apis Himalaya, Baidyanath, Zandu, Dadev, Hi Honey, Societe Naturelle, Hitkari and Indigenous Honey.
    CSE said its probe also reveals that the Indian standards for honey purity cannot detect the adulteration.
    “Our research has found that most of the honey sold in the market is adulterated with sugar syrup. Therefore, instead of honey, people are eating more sugar, which will add to the risk of COVID-19. Sugar ingestion is directly linked to obesity, and obese people are more vulnerable to life-threatening infections,” said Narain.
    CSE food researchers also tested the samples at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat, where almost all the top brands (except Apis Himalaya) passed the tests of purity.
    “What we found was shocking,” says Amit Khurana, programme director of CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins team. “It shows how the business of adulteration has evolved so that it can pass the stipulated tests in India. Our concern is not just that the honey we eat is adulterated, but that this adulteration is difficult to catch. In fact, we have found that sugar syrups are designed so that they can go undetected.”
    As of August 1, 2020, NMR tests have been made mandatory in India for honey that is meant for export. Over the past few years, FSSAI has revised norms for honey quality several times. Narain said that CSE's findings suggest that more needs to be done to tell apart pure honey.
    CSE said it also tracked down Chinese trade portals like Alibaba which were advertising fructose syrup that can bypass tests. It also found that the same Chinese companies that advertised this fructose syrup that can beat C3 and C4 tests also exported to India.
    CSE added that it also conducted an undercover operation where it imported batches of sugar syrup designed to beat normal tests. After mixing the syrup with pure honey in various proportions, CSE got the products tested, which passed purity tests to the point where sugar syrup was laced with honey for up to 50 percent.
    Besides, CSE also tracked down a factory in India, in Jaspur in Uttarakhand, which manufactures the 'all pass' syrup, which when mixed with honey, helps it clear tests.
    CSE said it has asked the government and industry to stop the import of syrups and honey from China and strengthen enforcement in India through public testing so that companies are held responsible.
    "The government should get samples tested using advanced technologies and make this information public so that consumers are aware and our health is not compromised. It will also hold companies responsible," Narain said.
    Narain added that the rampant adulteration of honey mixing has resulted in a sharp drop of price of honey from Rs 150 odd a kg in 2014-15 to about Rs 60-70 now, hurting local beekeepers.
    She added that consumers must become more aware of the honey they consume. "We often assume that if honey crystallises, it is not pure. This is not correct. We must start learning the taste, smell and colour of the honey that is natural,” she said.
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