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Counterfeit Honey

Honey, in the EU, is defined as “the natural sweet substance produced by Apis mellifera bees from the nectar of plants […], which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature”. However, this product can vary enormously in terms of quality, appearance and flavour. Some honeys, like Manuka Honey from New Zealand, have a distinctive taste and are thought to be particularly beneficial for humans. These honeys are sold at a much higher price than more basic honeys.

Manuka Honey is of specific interest for VeriVin because of its relatively high cost, which is due to its purported beneficial health properties. The product of a single country (New Zealand), this honey is exported in large quantities across the world. In 2016, 9,000 tonnes of Manuka Honey were exported, with 1,000 tonnes being sold into the UK market. A simple glance at New Zealand’s annual certified production vs the imported volume worldwide is enough to understand that there are a huge number of fake products on the market.

Figure 1: discrimination of Manuka, clear and adulterated honey using VeriVin setup.

Addition of synthetic dihydroxyacetone (which is used in fake tan creams and sprays) to enhance the quality of poor honeys is another major problem for bona-fide Manuka Honey producers. All honey is by definition a totally natural product, and yet many of the honeys found on the market today have been heavily processed and adulterated. Honey is most often adulterated using other sugar syrups such as glucose, fructose and corn syrup.

Raman spectroscopy is able to uncover most frauds in honey adulteration: the presence of corn, beetroot and cane syrups has been detected through Raman spectroscopy supported by chemometrics. At VeriVin we have demonstrated that we can discriminate between Manuka Honey, clear honey and glucose adulterated honey using our device.

References
Larry Olmsted “Real Food, Fake Food”
J.Food Comp. Anal. 28(1) 2012, 69-74.

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