An investigation conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found rampant adulteration in honey sold by major Indian brands, with 77 per cent of samples failing purity tests for sugar syrup adulteration. Of the 13 top and smaller brands of processed and raw honey, such as Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, and Zandu, selected by CSE food researchers for the investigation, only three could pass the internationally accepted Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) test.

These brands had been using rice and sugar syrups to adulterate honey, which went undetected under testing protocols mandated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the CSE study found. While some brands such as Apis, Dadev, Indigenous Honey and Societe Naturalle failed to clear the tests conducted in India, other popular brands that cleared them were found to be circumventing the norms in Germany.

Indian tests were unable to detect this adulteration because Chinese companies have designed sugar syrups – namely golden syrup, invert sugar syrup and rice syrup being exported to India as fructose – in a way they can easily bypass food standards. When the samples were first tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat, all top brands, except Apis Himalaya, passed the purity test.

“This food fraud severely compromises public health in the troubled times of COVID-19. Indians today are consuming more honey because they believe in its intrinsic goodness – antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties – and to build immunity against the virus,” the release said. “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. This overuse of sugar in our diet will make it worse,” said Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general Sunita Narain.