CSE found that 10 out of 13 brands of honey were adulterated. FSSAI, the regulator will take up the matter expeditiously.
The investigation into honey was launched after beekeepers from North India reported decreased profits despite a spike in honey sales during the Covid-19 pandemic. CSE director general Sunita Narain stated, “It is a food fraud more nefarious and more sophisticated than what we found in our 2003 and 2006 investigations into soft drinks; more damaging to our health than perhaps anything that we have found till now — keeping in mind the fact that we are still fighting against a killer COVID-19 pandemic with our backs to the wall.”
CSE reported that the current honey adulteration business has evolved to bypass existing tests. Originally, sugars from corn, sugarcane, rice, and beetroot used to be added to honey to increase sweetness, but such adulteration can easily be detected by what are known as C3 and C4 tests. However, the new modified ‘Chinese sugar’ can only be detected by a test called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). NMR tests have very recently been made mandatory in India for honey that is meant for export.
Researchers at the CSE selected top thirteen brands and smaller brands of processed and raw honey being sold in India. Samples from these were tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat. The test results show that only three out of thirteen brands had passed all the purity tests conducted, and ten brands had failed. The failed brands included Dabur and Patanjali. A total of 3 samples of Dabur and 2 samples of Patanjali were take for the tests. Dabur honey passed tests for C3 and C4 sugar but failed the NMR tests on all three samples. In one of the samples, Dabur also failed to pass on TMR. Patanjali honey passed tests for C3 and C4 sugar but failed to pass on TMR and NMR tests in both samples.
In response to these allegations, spokespersons from Dabur and Patanjali denied that their honey products were adulterated and said that they meet regulatory requirements laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), reported The Print.
Subsequently, the FSSAI issued a statement saying: “The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has taken note of CSE’s investigation on adulteration in honey. The Authority appreciates the efforts of Civil Society Organisations like CSE to promote awareness among customers about food safety and standards and will utilize the findings of this investigation to bring about any improvements in the food safety ecosystem pertaining to honey that are found necessary.” "Based on requests by FSSAI, CSE handed over the samples and documents to allow the regulator to take up the matter expeditiously and ensure that the nefarious business of adulteration is stopped," reported The Hindu.