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DoST finds 82% of honey on sale in PHL to be fake

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PHOTO COURTESY OF WILDBIENE + PARTNER

RESEARCHERS affiliated with the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) have found that about 82% of honey products sold in the Philippines are actually sugar or corn syrups.

Angel T. Bautista VII, a researcher with the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said nuclear-level analysis indicates that many honey products actually have near-zero honey content.

“Eighty-two percent or 62 out of the 76 of honey brands that were found to be adulterated were composed of 95% C4 sugar syrup. So, they are not actually adulterated but they are just (mostly) sugar syrup,” Mr. Bautista said in a statement.

Mr. Bautista said 75% or 12 out of 16 Philippine honey brands sold in groceries or souvenir shops are adulterated. The corresponding percentage for honey sold online is 87%.

None of the 41 imported honey products available in Philippine markets were found to be adulterated.

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“You may be buying honey for its wonderful health benefits, but because of adulteration, you may actually just be buying pure sugar syrup. Consuming too much pure sugar syrup can lead to harmful health effects,” Mr. Bautista said.

Mr. Bautista said the protein content of honey can be determined by a process called stable carbon isotope ratio analysis.

He said carbon isotopes for real honey will match those of bees and flowering plants, while fake honey will match with sugarcane and corn.

“The carbon-13 signature is like a fingerprint of honey and common adulterants like sugarcane and corn are completely different from each other. Therefore, we can differentiate one from the other. This unique isotopic signature is what we are using to tell if honey is authentic or fake,” Mr. Bautista said.

Mr. Bautista said consumers are being misled, adding that adulterated honey can pose serious harm to the industry if left unchecked.

He estimated that the domestic honey industry is losing P200 million a year to fakes, which can sell for a little as one-third of the price of real honey.

The DoST said products labeled honey must not contain additives. Any such additions must be specified in the label, according to the Philippine National Standard for Honey enforced by the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards.

The standard requires a declaration of the honey’s region of origin in the label.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bautista said the study’s findings have been relayed to the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

“If we just release the names of the companies, they may stop for a while. But no one can stop them from faking honey again in the future. If we incorporate these isotope-based standards into our regulatory system and the Philippine National Standards, then we think it will be long-lasting solution to this problem,” Mr. Bautista said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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