Consumers see honey as an authentic and pure product that is good for health and so consumption of honey has increased. Honey sold commercially is of many varieties like flower or forest honey. Honey is also known by the geographical region it comes from like Manuka honey of New Zealand. It may be noted that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has categorized honey into three categories – Special, Grade A, and Standard. Honey test from recognized testing laboratories can determine the grades so they can be displayed accordingly on labels accurately as also when honey can be labeled ‘pure.’
Honey test and regulations
Honey is not only consumed directly but is an important ingredient used in the food industry. Honey is regulated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as food. Stringent regulations are in place to ensure the safety and authenticity of honey as it is important for both consumers and food processors. Food testing laboratories that test honey verify that the quality and purity as displayed on the label are indeed true. Honey is a high-value commercial product and the quality of honey is determined through sensorial (taste, texture) physical, chemical, and microbial food testing. Honey must be tested from a NABL testing laboratory that is accredited and notified by FSSAI so pesticides, antibiotics, chemical, and heavy metals residues all within the prescribed parameters as listed in standards.
Honey can be adulterated with corn syrup, sugar syrup, invert sugar, flour, starch, glucose, dextrose or molasses. Once these substances are mixed into the honey it can no longer be considered pure because it becomes sub-standard. Honey is most often adulterated for financial gains as adulterated honey can be produced and offered for sale at lower rates to increase profit margins. In a food testing laboratory, it is possible to evaluate whether honey has been adulterated with these substances or even that sugar was fed to the bees.
Antibiotic testing of honey
Antibiotic residue found in honey also makes it unsafe for human consumption. Antibiotics are fed to honey bees and this causes drug resistance. Besides this antibiotic contaminated honey can cause blood-related diseases and damage the kidney, liver, bone, and teeth over time. Honey is given to children for its health benefit and testing honey in independent chemical laboratories ensures it is free of antibiotics.
Authenticity of honey
Honey comprises of water, glucose, fructose, pollen, wax and mineral salts, and exact composition and color depends upon the type of flower nectar bees have used in making honey. This can be determined with the authenticity testing of honey. One aspect of Honey test for composition and authenticity is that it must contain pollen residues. Microbiological testing of pollen from honey helps to authenticate the geographical location and botanical origin of honey so it is not misrepresented on honey labels. Without pollen residues, it becomes impossible to determine the source of honey needed for labeling requirements.