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Fake honey is everywhere. Here's how to tell if it is real or not

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Dec 14, 2020 1:24 am

There is no sugarcoating this fact: most of the honey products sold in markets are fake.

Globally, honey laundering is a big business as honey is said to be the third most faked food, right next to milk and olive oil.

If you are buying honey to enjoy its health benefits, chances are you may be unwittingly doing just the opposite: you may just be guzzling down watered sugar.

According to the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, 80% of commercial honey being sold in the Philippines is just flavored syrup.

The problem is that people are being tricked. You may be buying honey for its wonderful health benefits but because of adulteration, you may actually just be buying pure sugar syrup. Consuming too much pure sugar syrup can lead to harmful health effects.

“This was revealed using the nuclear-based tests showing honey-products contain syrups made from sugarcane and corn,”  DOST said. “This fraudulent practice allows manufacturers to increase the volume of their products while reducing the production costs.”

DOST-PNRI’s Dr. Angel Bautista said 82% of honey brands in markets were just 95% sugar syrup. 

“The problem is that people are being tricked,” Bautista said.  “You may be buying honey for its wonderful health benefits, but because of adulteration, you may actually just be buying pure sugar syrup. Consuming too much pure sugar syrup can lead to harmful health effects.”

Fake honey has plagued the world for several decades now. As the appearance and taste of honey is not that hard to replicate, fraudulent products abound.

How to spot the true from the fake?
The easiest test is to read the nutrition facts indicated at the back of the product, where some manufacturers do indicate that it is “flavored syrup.” If the ingredient statement also say that it contains high-fructose syrup or glucose, that is an outright red flag that the product is not pure honey.

Another recourse is to consult the Food and Drug Administration as they usually — though belatedly — issue advisories on certain brands. One could just key in the brand name along with the keyword FDA on Google to see if it has been flagged.

In 2016, FDA issued an advisory against CEM’s Honey, one of the most heavily marketed brands in the country, as being unregistered. In 2017, FDA also released this advisory against three brands — Morning Dew Wild Honey, Pure Honey Bee, and Palawan Honey Queen. And just last August, the FDA warned the public against these five honey brands — Manny’s premium honey 100% wild, Backyard Bees Raw European honey, Batangas Bee Farm, Knafrz Pure Honey, Like a Kid 100% Wild Organic Honey with Comb.

Though not 100% foolproof, there are also some home tests you could do to check if the honey is pure or just fake and adulterated. 

You could try rubbing the honey in between your fingers as real honey will not be sticky. But fake honey will usually be sticky due to the added sugars.

Real honey is thick that if you move the jar to one side, it will take some time for it to travel and settle on the other side. Fake honey, however, will be light, very runny, and moves quickly from one side of the jar to the other.

Real honey, due to its organic source, has a mild floral scent, while fake honey has no smell at all.

Water test
A teaspoon of authentic honey dropped in a glass of water will not dissolve and just settle at the bottom in a lump. Fake honey, however, dissolves quickly.

As fake honey is a booming business globally, regulators all over the world have a hard time policing the marketplace and putting in place effective enforcement mechanisms. To date, many of the brands FDA flagged are still easily bought in various stores. Many manufacturers are also getting more sophisticated, using various formulations and synthetic ingredients to better mimic actual honey.

If one wants to go the extra mile and be downright sure, perhaps the best way to be assured of having true authentic honey is to go local and search for actual purveyors of raw and wild honey by talking to the business owner and if it merits, even visiting their site. Ultimately, these local suppliers also bore the ill-effects of the fake honey trade as the price of their liquid gold gets diluted by the influx of fake honey.