All UK honey fails EU authenticity testing

Winnie-the Pooh loved AA Milne’s children’s classic more than a jar full of “hunny”.

Honey lovers may now need to be more careful about what they buy, as every UK sample has failed the EU authenticity check.

The European Commission conducted an investigation and found that 10 of the UK’s ordinary honey samples failed adulteration testing. This is likely because the honey was blended or packaged in Britain from honey originating overseas.

46% of all samples were fraudulently tested, according to the study. The EU’s general directorate for food safety and health worked with 18 EU countries to test 320 samples. 147 of these samples had “at least 1 marker of extraneous Sugar Sources” found.

The report was published last week by the Joint Research Centre. It stated that honey exported from the UK into Europe had a 100% suspicion rate. This could be due to honey being produced in other countries or further processed in the UK prior to its re-export to Europe.

Although the UK Government claimed it was testing the results, they said there was no danger to consumer safety. Olaf, EU’s antifraud office warned that such practices defraud consumers. They also put honest producers at risk because they are subject to unfair competition from operators who can cut prices due to illegal, low-cost ingredients.

The UK imported over 38,000 tonnes of honey last year from China. There is a risk of sugar syrup adulteration.

Because honey from more than one country is not required to be labeled with the country of origin, consumers will not know the authenticity or provenance of their honey.

Arturo Carrillo from Mexico, who is the coordinator of the international Honey Authenticity Network said that the UK was flooded by cheaply imported honey from China. It is very disappointing that the British authorities are reluctant to acknowledge and address this huge problem.

Devina Sankhla is a British Retail Consortium food policy advisor. She said that members work closely with suppliers to verify the authenticity of honey and conduct regular inspections to make sure all honey sold is exactly as described. Retailers support the continuous improvement and harmonization of methods to detect adulterated honey.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that: “The UK Government takes all types of food fraud very seriously, even honey adulteration.” Adulterated honey is not allowed, as it can undermine consumer confidence and negatively affect responsible businesses.

“We work closely together with enforcement authorities in order to ensure honey sold to the UK isn’t subject to adulteration, meets all our high standards, and maintains a level playing ground between honey producers.”

The Food Fraud Database states that honey is among the most counterfeited foods, along with olive oil and milk. Honey is also adulterated by adding sugar syrup or colouring.

It was the first product to be awarded new Kitemark quality labels in 2020. This was after scams involving manuka honey. Manuka, a rare and expensive product that originated in New Zealand, has been often falsified. New Zealand produces 1,700 tonnes of Manuka, but sells 10,000 tonnes.

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