There has been more than a little bit of noise lately about the issue of honey adulteration. Consumers have been left wondering who they can trust. But it needs to be made clear this is not a honey production problem; rather a honey importation problem. A Fairfax-ABC investigation revealed many cheaper and house blended brands of imported honey have additives bulking them up, including sugar or beet syrup.
Using the C4 sugar test, the industry standard in Australia, all the allegedly adulterated samples passed as honey. But well-known brands have been caught out by relying on this test, which according to the investigation was not thorough enough to detect substitution in imported honey, particularly from China. This week Capilano Honey rejected the claims, questioning the accuracy of the alternative NMR test in Australia. This discrepancy, and the adequacy of testing, needs to be determined by an independent body.
For the average consumer, it’s simple: what they buy is what they expect. This in turn means the accuracy of provenance becomes even more vital for the consumer. There is no nutritional harm done from the additives, but people have a right to know what they are consuming and make purchases accordingly.
The sloppiness and loopholes in Australian labelling, (think the healthy food labelling confusion) shows the paralysis of the Federal Government on this matter, and the power of the food industry in failing to serve the consumer. But in this case the impacts go further. For the local producer, this makes the point of difference all the greater, and consumers will choose on source and quality rather than simply on price – potentially making their cache even stronger.
So in many ways this is a call-out to the consumer to buy local; to ensure we are supporting Australian producers. But there is also the bigger argument which Australian honey-makers put forward: the flood of “adulterated” honey contributes to a decline in bee populations in nations, including Australia.
Such is the importance of bees to humanity that the decline and disappearance of these prolific pollinators would have catastrophic consequences. Two-thirds of agriculture depends on pollination by bees. As Albert Einstein said: “Man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”