An investigation conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment has found rampant adulteration in honey being sold by major Indian brands, including Dabur, Patanjali and Emami.
At a media conference, CSE chief Sunita Narain said the firm had sent samples of honey from 13 brands for testing at a German lab for advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Only three brands — Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Nature’s Nectar — passed the adulteration test.
The brands that failed the test are Dabur, Patanjali, Apis Himalaya, Baidyanath, Zandu, Dadev, Hi Honey, Societe Naturelle, Hitkari and Indigenous Honey.
The CSE claimed it has tracked down Chinese trade portals that were advertising fructose syrup that can bypass tests to check adulteration. It alleged the same companies exported their fructose syrups to India.
The investigation also exposed loopholes in the FSSAI’s standards, which enable the bypassing of purity tests.
Responding to the claim, the sEmami spokesperson said: “Emami as a responsible organisation ensures that its Zandu pure honey conforms and adheres to all the protocols and quality norms/standards laid down by the Government of India and its authorised entities such as FSSAI.”
Dabur, too, refuted the claim, saying the recent reports seem “motivated and aimed at maligning our brand”.
Commenting on the development, Patanjali Ayurved spokesperson SK Tijarawala said: “We manufacture only the natural honey, which is approved by the food regulator FSSAI. Our product meets the standards laid by FSSAI.”
He also alleged that it was a conspiracy to defame the natural honey producers of the country.
According to the CSE, honey, which is a natural product acquired from bees, is mixed with sugar syrup acquired from rice, corn, beetroot and sugarcane and passed off as pure honey, a clear health hazard.
The rampant adulteration has resulted in a sharp drop in the price of honey, hurting local beekeepers.
The investigation began after tip-offs received from Indian beekeepers pointed to widespread contamination of honey by domestic manufacturers, who were allegedly sourcing sugar syrup from China. After the ban on Chinese imports recently, Indian manufacturers now locally source sugar syrup from plants.
The consumption of honey has gone up in India since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic as its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties are known to help build immunity. Hence, the detection of the food fraud is of particular concern as it compromises public health at a time the pandemic has brought the world to its knees.