Honey fraud revealed in Canadian imports

An enforcement action by the Canadian authorities has uncovered nearly 12,800kg of adulterated honey worth $77,000.

The clampdown on honey being distributed in the country was conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and was prompted by testing last year which revealed that almost one in four samples of honey (22 per cent) contained added sugars.

The agency is quick to point out that is probably an overestimate of the true scale of honey fraud, as the testing was targeted to focus on high-risk areas, such as establishments with a history of non-compliance or unusual trading patterns.

Honey is a perennial target for food fraudsters, and fraud can generally be narrowed down to two scenarios: either non-compliance with an origin name resulting from mixing of honeys from several varieties; or the deliberate addition of an adulterating substance.

It’s the latter that the authorities in Canada have been targeting in the latest operation, as under Canadian law, honey is a standardised product and cannot contain added sugars.

The CFIA testing found that all samples made by domestic producers were authentic, suggesting that imports are the main source of adulterated products entering the market.

The testing and enforcement operation is detailed in a report published on the CFIA website, which concludes: “CFIA intends to use the results of this surveillance to improve the targeting of future sampling and inspection activities, inform analytical needs, and refine programme design.”

A European Commission report published in 2017 estimated that 14 per cent of honey samples tested were adulterated with added sugars such as high fructose syrups, while the US Pharmacopeia’s Food Fraud Database lists honey as the third-favourite food target for adulteration, behind milk and olive oil.

Meanwhile, there have been widespread reports questioning the authenticity of some products labelled as New Zealand manuka honey.

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