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    All honey samples from UK found to be adulterated in EU tests

    Photo: iStock

    A coordinated action against honey adulteration led by the European Commission has found that nearly half (46%) the honey imported into the EU is contaminated with sugars.

    The rate is considerably higher than the one obtained in 2015-17 (14%).

    A total of 320 honey consignments – imported from 20 countries, including the UK – were randomly sampled between November 2021 and February 2022, and all ten samples from the UK failed the authenticity tests, the Commission revealed.

    The agency added that these samples of honey might be produced in other countries, but further blended in the UK before its re-export to the EU.

    The highest absolute number of suspicious consignments originated from China (74%), although honey originating from Turkey had the highest relative proportion of suspicious samples (93%).

    Sixteen EU Member States plus Switzerland and Norway participated in the testing campaign.

    Honey naturally contains sugars and, according to EU legislation, must remain pure – meaning that it cannot have ingredients added to it. Adulteration occurs when ingredients such as water or inexpensive sugar syrups are artificially added to increase the volume of honey.

    “The most frequent type of fraud with honey happens via adulteration, meaning by adding cheap ingredients instead of keeping the honey pure. But we also found instances of origin fraud, with labels claiming false origins of the product. This action served to raise attention, call for order, and deter any fraudulent practices,” Ville Itälä, director general of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, said.

    While the risk for human health is considered as low, OLAF noted that such practices defraud consumers and put honest producers in jeopardy as they face unfair competition from operators who can slash prices thanks to illicit, cheap ingredients.

    The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it would investigate the results, but claimed that no single test can establish honey’s authenticity.

    “The UK government takes any type of food fraud very seriously – including honey adulteration. There is no place for adulterated honey which undermines consumer confidence and disadvantages responsible businesses,” reports quoted a Defra spokesperson as saying.

    “We work closely with enforcement authorities to ensure honey sold in the UK is not subject to adulteration, meets our high standards – and maintains a level playing field between honey producers.”

    Commenting on the findings, Arturo Carrillo, coordinator of the international Honey Authenticity Network, which has conducted tests on UK supermarket honey indicating adulteration, told the Guardian: “The UK is flooded with very cheap adulterated honey imported from China. What is disappointing is that the British authorities have been very, very much reluctant to accept and address this tremendous problem.

    “If this study does not trigger a broad and serious investigation in the UK like the one in the EU, then either the UK are completely incompetent or they are complicit.”

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