EUROPE – An EU probe titled, “From the Hives” has revealed that nearly half the honey imported to the EU is adulterated.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF) led the research that exposed the widespread fraud and suggested that many people might be purchasing fake honey that has been labeled as genuine.

The From the Hive results come after recent reports from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which also show how serious of a problem adulteration of imported honey is in each nation’s individual markets.

According to investigations by the European Commission, 320 samples were analyzed, and 147 (46%) of the imported honey samples were found to be contaminated with syrups and hence out of compliance with the EU Honey Directive.

When compared to the findings acquired in 2015–2017, which revealed a 14 percent non-compliance rate, the current From the Hive findings revealed a significantly greater proportion of non-compliance among imported honey.

In 2020–2022, China (74%) had the largest absolute proportion of suspicious consignments, whereas honey from Turkey had the highest relative proportion of suspicious samples (93 percent).

Due to the fact that honey is produced in other nations before being further blended in the UK and then re-exported to the EU, honey imported from the UK had an even higher suspicion rating (100 percent)

About 60% (66 in total) of the operators imported at least one questionable consignment and more than half (57%) of the operators exported honey that was possibly contaminated with extraneous sugars.

Seven EU operators have received sanctions to date out of 44 investigations that have taken place.

On-site inspection, sampling, and thorough analysis of digital records used in forensic investigations conducted by Member States and OLAF revealed collusion between exporters and importers.

It is believed that sugar syrups derived from sugar beet, rice, or wheat were used to adulterate honey both in non-EU countries and the EU.

The report revealed analytical malpractice in accredited laboratories to adapt honey/sugar blends to elude possible detection by clients and official authorities before import operations.

It also identified the use of additives and colorings to adulterate the true botanical source of the honey and masking the true geographical origin of honey by forging traceability information and removing pollens.

Ville Itälä, Director-General of OLAF, said: “The EU is an importer of honey as the internal demand is higher than our domestic production. It is important that we remain vigilant against any abuse. 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,” he added.

The European Commission believes it is quite possible that a significant amount of suspicious honey from non-EU imports is still available and undetected on the EU market.

It will consult with the pertinent parties and the authorities of the Member States to decide on an appropriate follow-up to this coordinated action.

The Commission is mulling necessitating food business operators, including importers, in the honey sector to ensure that food placed on the EU market satisfies the requirements of EU and national food law; verify that such requirements are met; and correctly identify the nature, composition, place or country of origin of the honey

They might also invite member states to increase their official controls on the market and at EU borders and to improve investigation techniques such as analytical methods for determining authenticity.

Further, they will consider reinforcing import requirements, such as the authenticity responsibility for exporting countries, and working with the competent authorities of exporting countries to address the issue of fraudulent products.

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