UK – The UK Government has unveiled a first-of-its-kind protocol for the collection of honey reference samples aimed at creating authenticity databases.

Honey, a natural and intricate blend of sugars produced solely by bees, is subject to stringent UK laws governing composition and labeling standards.

With premium and high-value honey products vulnerable to fraud due to their complex supply chains, the need for standardized authenticity testing methods is critical.

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

According to the report, nearly half the honey imported to the EU is adulterated with honey imported from the UK having an even higher suspicion rating (100 percent).

The newly introduced protocol delineates a process for obtaining reference samples at various stages within the honey supply chain. It specifies the requisite records, documents, and considerations necessary for a sample to qualify for inclusion in a honey authenticity database.

Honey, being a globally traded commodity with extended supply chains, is particularly susceptible to adulteration, primarily through the addition of inexpensive sugar syrups. Products with premium status, intricate supply chains, or those witnessing sudden demand surges are especially targeted by fraudsters.

Ensuring database credibility and transparency

A key challenge in authenticity testing lies in the varying interpretations made by laboratories, often arising from the use of disparate reference databases.

To foster trust and standardize authenticity databases, it is imperative that “authentic” reference samples are defined and collected based on an established protocol.

The newly introduced protocol specifies the requisite records, documents, and considerations necessary for a sample to qualify for inclusion in a honey authenticity database.


The protocol, developed by the UK Government, emphasizes the importance of third-party, independent collection of these samples.

By adhering to this standardized process, the homogeneity, integrity, and provenance of honey reference samples are assured, enhancing the credibility and transparency of authenticity databases.

Leading the initiative, the UK Government Chemist, in collaboration with the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and Food Standards Scotland (FSS), has undertaken a significant program dedicated to honey authenticity.

Their collective efforts aim to collaborate with the honey community, including researchers, enforcers, industry stakeholders, and international bodies.

In improving current authenticity testing methods and establishing standardized protocols, the initiative seeks to bolster consumer confidence, combat fraud, and uphold the integrity of the honey industry.

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