Not so sweet : It may notbe honey for your money

Not so sweet: It may not be honey for your money
Photo: Amit Kanwar

‘Pure’, ‘Natural’, ‘Wildflower’   health freaks are often tempted by the labels printed on honey bottles. But at times the honest work by beekeepers is often compromised by the bottlers or processing companies to make profit in the absence of stricter guidelines in India. Also, consumers, have no way of ascertaining these quality claims especially when it comes to adulteration, as currently there is no such lab in the country to test the claims.  Subhash Kamboj, general secretary, Haryana-based Confederation of Bee Keeping Industry says the beekeepers can’t even think about adulteration. But profit-makers do. That’s why you have adulteration in the domestic market. BL Sarswat, executive director of the National Bee Board, says most of honey sold in the domestic market is not pure and contains sugar-mixed ingredients. Exported honey is the only pure form available as it is tested as per parameters set by the importing countries. The honey meant for export market has to seek certification from labs in Germany where its samples are sent. The National Bee Board is a part of the department of agriculture, cooperation and farmers welfare, whose key objective is increasing the productivity and income of the beekeepers. Devvrat Sharma, managing director, Hi-Tech Natural Products (India) Ltd, says India doesn’t have a facility for many tests, including the pollen test. According to the European Union’s directive, certain composition criteria must be determined for honeys intended for human consumption. Diastase enzyme activity (diastase number) is one; others are sugar, moisture and water insoluble content, electrical conductivity, free acid, and hydroxymethylfurfural  (HMF) content.  A senior Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said it was in the process of formulating stricter guidelines on par with European countries. FSSAI does have labs to check the presence of antibiotics and pesticides but not adulteration. In the past, Emami, Dabur and Patnajali have locked horns over ads claiming purity of honey. The total branded honey market in India is Rs. 600-700 crore.  The special feature of honey consumption in India is that it is singularly seen as a medicinal product. In the West, honey is a permanent fixture on the breakfast table and is used to sweeten tea and making cakes. In India, honey is fished out either for use as a preventive healthcare ingredient in food, or when one gets a sore throat. The market for honey is growing, as the trend for healthy eating is on the rise. Devvrat Sharma of Hi-Tech Natural Products (India) Ltd says there is a proposal for a new marketing campaign to boost honey consumption in the country on the lines of National Egg Co-ordination Committee ad: ‘Sunday ho ya Monday Roz Khao Anday’. Hundreds of beekeepers, supported by honey exporters, protested in Delhi in September this year to protest the potential approval of Genetically Modified mustard in India for commercial cultivation. The beekeepers argued that there was a documented adverse impact of GM crops on non-target organisms like honeybees.

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