Research presented at Apimondia, the international beekeeping conference held in Montreal, Canada this September showing that one-third of all internationally traded honey is not made by bees from flowers. As a result the price of genuine honey is being depressed forcing commercial producers out of business. The effect is particularly serious in those countries which export large quantities of honey such as Argentina. As a result the number of bee colonies worldwide is reducing and with it their contribution to crop pollination. Some argue adulteration is a greater threat to World bee populations than are pests and diseases.
In the past adulteration was carried out using syrups made from plants of the C4 group such as corn and sugar cane which can be detected by current tests. Now substitutes from the C3 plant group which include rice, wheat and beet syrups are being used. This group includes the plants used by bees for forage and are not detected by current tests. Precise quantities of pollen, diastase and the amino acid proline are added to mimic genuine honey.
These adulterants are widely available on Asian internet sites such as Alibaba where they are advertised as intended for use as counterfeit honey able to pass international tests as honey. Google ‘rice syrup pass’ and see the results for yourself. The price of this counterfeit honey is around US$500 tonne compared with an international average of US$3,800 for the real thing. The price of Chinese honey (or what purports to be Chinese honey) is around half the international average price for honey. In 2018 the 47% of the honey entering the EU from China came to the UK. Sophisticated tests carried out on samples of cheaper, mostly own brand, honeys from UK supermarkets found the honey sold in UK to be the most adulterated in Europe.