A study done by the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) discovered that at least three of four honey brands being sold in the country are impure or fake.
The research revealed that these brands are instead made from sugars from C4 plants—such as sugarcane or corn—based on tests using Iscira, or the internal standard stable carbon isotope ratio analysis.
The results, disseminated in this year’s Philippine National Research and Development Conference, showed that “adulterated honey takes up 75% to 86.5% of the local market.”
The research team tested 131 brands, 57 of which were store-bought and 74 were purchased online. Using Iscira, they traced honey adulteration with C4 plant sugars and found that 41 of the 57 store-bought honeys were authentic, while of the 16 that were not, 12 were adulterated with C4 sugars.
Of the 74 that were bought online, 64 were shown to be mixed with C4 sugars. In fact, 62 of the 64 were almost completely (95%) made of C4 sugar syrup.
According to the Philippine National Standards for Honey of the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standard, honey being sold cannot contain any other additives and substances; if so, they must be declared on the label.
However, the PNRI’s study confirmed “honey laundering” (large-scale adulteration and counterfeiting) in the country. The prevalence of fake honey could lower prices of the product since they can be sold at a third of the price of real honey.
“Imagine incomes that are supposed to be for our honest beekeepers and honey producers are being lost instead due to adulteration and fraud,” said Angel Bautista VII, a proponent of study. “This is affecting our local honey industry so badly that we estimate that they are losing around P200 million a year.”
The PNRI team has already passed their findings to the agriculture department and the Food and Drug Administration, recommending the use of Iscira in regulatory processes as well as the Philippine National Standards for honey. They believe that this could serve as a lasting solution to the adulteration issue if integrated into the regulatory system.
Although there are simple tests the public may use to check honey authenticity (water test: a teaspoon of honey is put into water; real honey sinks to the bottom in a lump, while fake honey dissolves), Bautista said they are inconclusive. The water test only checks moisture content, and real honey contains a range of moisture that is authentic.