Fake honey. That’s what Capilano, Australia’s leading ASX-listed honey company, and some Australian supermarket chains are being accused of inadvertently selling.
The accusations stem from testing conducted by a leading scientific laboratory based in Germany, which found that almost half of the honey samples they had received from Australia were not 100 percent pure but had been adulterated—that is, blended with other substances not from bees.
Samples that were found to be adulterated were all products that blend Australian and overseas honeys. Australian honey was not found to be adulterated.
Capilano’s Allowrie-branded mixed blossom honey came up as adulterated in six out of eight samples tested by the laboratory, the ABC reported.
The lab also found that four out of six samples of IGA’s Black and Gold private label, and two out of six ALDI Bramwell’s private label brands, were adulterated.
All these samples came from brands that claim to be 100 percent honey on their packaging.
There is no evidence that Capilano, IGA, and ALDI were aware of the adulteration. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Capilano branded honey, which is labelled as purely Australian, is adulterated.
Concerns Over Honey from China
It all started when horticulturalist Robert Costa was worried that adulterated honey from China was being sold in Australia in brands that marketed themselves as pure honey, according to the ABC’s 7.30 Report.
So he hired one of Australia’s top law firms, King & Wood Mallesons, to obtain 28 jars of blended Australian and imported honey from across five Australian supermarket chains.
The law firm commissioned the state-of-the-art German laboratory Quality Services International (QSI) to run two tests on all 28 honey samples—nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) screening and C4 sugar testing.
Through the NMR method, almost half of all the samples—12 of 28—tested positive for adulteration.
QSI’s managing director, Gudrun Beckh, who has been testing honey for 30 years, told the ABC that most of the adulterated honey resulted from blending Australian honey with Chinese honey, and that the Australian honey was not adulterated.
“Fake honey always existed, but in the last years it’s a growing problem because of the people who adulterate using more and more sophisticated methods, so it’s more complicated to detect it,” Beckh told 7.30. She said that the NMR method was the best for detecting adulteration.
Phil McCabe, the president of the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Association (Apimondia), said he will be referring QSI’s test results to Interpol for further investigation, the ABC reported. Apimondia recently said it would use NMR screening as part of its new honey competition rules, the ABC reported.
“By and large [the impurity] is some kind of syrup that’s been converted to look like honey, it tastes like honey,” he told the ABC. “Everything about it seems to be honey, when in fact it’s just sugar syrup or something else … Consumers don’t realise what they are buying and eating isn’t honey.”
Costa told 7.30 he was concerned that cheap, imported honeys, or blends of them, are hurting the bee industry in Australia. This would likely have flow-on effects for agricultural production given that an estimated two-thirds of Australia’s food production relies on pollination by honey bees, Costa said.
C4 Testing, Used by Australia, Passes Fake Honey
All the 28 samples were not detected as adulterated via the C4 sugar test, according to the German lab’s findings, the ABC reported.