Counterfeit honey and Manuka 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 superior taste quality, and are thought to be particularly beneficial for humans. These high quality products, therefore, are sold at a much higher price respect to more basic honeys.
Even cheaper honey is, according to this definition, a totally natural product; however, all sorts of processing are possible, and sometimes heavy sophistication occurs.
Honey is often adulterated using other sugar syrups such as glucose, fructose and corn. Another type of fraud, similarly for what happens in the olive oil market, consists in faking the denomination of origin on the label, selling cheap honeys as (for example) an expensive Manuka Honey from New Zeland. In reality, honeys have a clear marker of their origin: residual pollen. However, this can be filtered out and the result is a liquid, undistinguishable sugar. In the case of Manuka honey, the addition of synthetic dihydroxyacetone or b-carotene (commonly used in cosmetics) will make this fake honey almost identical to the original one.
Raman spectroscopy is able to uncover most frauds in honey adulteration: the presence of corn, beet and cane syrups has been detected through Raman spectroscopy supported by chemometrics. FT-Raman also helped in the discrimination of Corsical honey from other EU products, and in VeriVin we have performed experiments on the discrimination of Manuka honey, clear honey and glucose adulterated honey.
Larry Olmsted “Real Food, Fake Food”
J.Food Comp. Anal. 28(1) 2012, 69-74.