A day after Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) expose on adulteration in honey, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Thursday said that it has taken note of the investigation but has sought more details from CSE before drawing any conclusions.
In a statement, FSSAI said, “FSSAI will utilize the findings of this investigation to bring about any improvements in the food safety ecosystem pertaining to honey that are found necessary… It is not clear as to why some tests like Specific Marker for Rice syrup test have not been conducted on the samples spiked with adulterants by CSE. FSSAI has requested details of the samples and the tests conducted from CSE. As soon as details become available, they will be analysed by FSSAI to draw conclusions about the protocols followed and suggest any improvements that are required in the test methodology for the future.”
Meanwhile, sources say that a team of CSE will meet FSSAI on Friday on their investigations and will share details of examination, tests, samples and methodology.
It was on Wednesday when CSE in a press conference said that several brands of honey in India, including leading names such as Dabur and Patanjali, sell honey laced with sugar syrup, an investigation by CSE.
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, on Wednesday had 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 Nectar 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 had 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,” Narain had said.
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,” said 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.
(Edited by : Abhishek Jha)