Ten leading Indian honey brands, including Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari, and Apis Himalaya, are adulterated with sugar syrup, alleged in a study by the research and advocacy organization CSE (Centre for Science and Environment), whose findings were fully refuted by leading brands.
The CSE report reported that the brands failed a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) test that was made mandatory for exports by the Indian government starting on August 1, 2020. Just three out of the 13 brands, Saffola, Markfed Sohna, and Nature’s Nectar, were named as those who passed the laboratory tests. “This is extremely worrying, as it will compromise health 19 times in Covid, with households consuming much more honey due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties,” CSE director general Sunita Narain said.
Companies named by the CSE, however, said that the CSE report is ‘motivated and defamatory.’
Most brands passed the pattern, but only three brands (spanning six samples) passed when subjected to a test called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR, which can determine the composition of a product at the molecular level) that was performed at a laboratory in Germany: Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Nature’s Nectar (one sample of two). For each brand, there were also several samples tested.
Around 18 parameters that honey must comply with for producers to call it ‘pure honey’ are defined by current regulations.
For honey that is marketed locally but is needed for export, the NMR test is not necessary by Indian law.
Amit Khurana, Program Director of the CSE Food Safety and Toxins unit, said What we found was shocking.” “It demonstrates how the adulteration business has evolved so that the stipulated tests in India can be passed… We have found that sugar syrups are so designed that they can go undetected.”
Brands named in the research immediately challenged the arguments of the CSE. “The report seems motivated and aimed at maligning our brand. Dabur does not import honey or syrup from China. Our honey is sourced entirely from Indian beekeepers. Dabur also complies with the 22 parameters mandated by the FSSAI. We are also the only company in the country to have NMR testing equipment in our own laboratory to check for adulteration.”
MD Acharya Balkrishna of Patanjali Ayurved said the CSE study seemed to be a marketing trick to promote German technology. “We make 100 percent natural honey which has been tested on standards laid down by the FSSAI. Ayurveda has been recommending natural honey for ages to boost immunity. The study seems to be an attempt to markdown Indian honey and promote German technology,” he said.
Which Honey Brands Passed The CSE Test?
Among the major brands, all the tests cleared only Marico’s Saffola Honey, indicating the extent of adulteration among famous honey labels, the CSE said. On the other hand, smaller brands failed laboratory tests for both Indian and international norms, the New Delhi-based organization said.
With several countries including India, developing regulations and new tests to monitor it, adulteration of honey is a worldwide problem. This July, the new version of a draught law came into force but requires businesses to be completely compliant until next year. Adulteration also ruined beekeepers’ livelihoods, who considered it unprofitable to make pure honey because according to the CSE, sugar-syrup honey was always available at half the price.