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How to Tell Real Honey from Fake Honey?

Posted on: August 21, 2020, by Jason
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National standards for honey
Professional honey detection
Simple and effective real honey test
These honeys don’t exist

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Real-honey

With people's awareness of the health function of honey, people's demand for honey is also increasing. However, due to the lack of effective supervision in the Chinese market, counterfeit and inferior products are also flooding the market. Driven by profit, the unscrupulous profiteers extended their immoral hands to honey. The annual production of honey in China exceeds 540,000 tons, but nearly 800,000 tons are circulating in the market. Can't you see anything? Ok. Now how do we distinguish between real honey from fake honey? Real honey vs fake.

There are generally two types of fake honey. One is adulterated honey and the other is fake honey. Adulterated honey means adding other substances to real honey, making one catty of honey become two catties of honey. While fake honey does not contain real honey, it is made of syrup and other substances.

National standards for honey

Definition of honey: Honey bees collect the nectar, secretions or honeydew of plants, mix with their own secretions, and then fully brew the natural sweet substance.

Skills requirement

  1. Nectar requirements
    The nectar, secretions or honeydew collected by bees from plants should be safe and non-toxic, and must not be derived from Tripterygium, Macleaya cordata, Stellera chamaejasme and other poisonous nectar plants.
  2. Sensory requirements
    1.  Color: depending on the nectar source, from water white (near colorless) to dark (dark brown)
    2. Taste and smell: with unique taste and smell, no peculiar smell
    3. State: It is viscous fluid at room temperature, or partially or completely crystallized
    4. Impurities: must not contain bee limbs, larvae, wax chips and visible impurities (except for nest honey containing wax chips)
  3. Physical and chemical indicators
    1. Fructose and glucose/ (g/100 g) ≥ 60
    2. Sucrose/ (g/100 g):
      1. Eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, alfalfa honey, lychee honey, wild osmanthus honey ≤ 10
      2. Other honey ≤ 5
    3. Zinc (Zn)/(mg/kg) ≤ 25
  4. Pollutants, veterinary drug residue limits, and pesticide residue limits should comply with relevant standards
  5. Microbial limits
    1. Total number of colonies/(CFU/g) ≤ 1000
    2.  Coliform group/(MPN/g) ≤ 0.3
    3. Mold count/(CFU/g) ≤ 200
    4. Osmophilic yeast count/(CFU/g) ≤ 200
    5. Salmonella 0/25g
    6. Shigella 0/25g
    7. Staphylococcus aureus 0/25g

Professional honey detection

There are many raw honey authenticity identification methods commonly used at home and abroad, mainly for the corresponding detection technology adopted for the changes in certain physical and chemical properties of honey caused by different adulterants. For example, after adding C4 plant sugars (such as corn syrup and sugar cane syrup), the 13C/12C in honey will change, and stable carbon isotope detection technology can be used, which is also the method recommended in China’s national standard.

Chromatographic methods are also commonly used methods in honey quality identification and adulteration identification, mainly including gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and their combined methods to analyze the sugars, flavonoids, polyphenols, organic acids, volatile substances, amino acids and Minerals, etc., using these markers for honey quality and adulteration identification analysis.

Near-infrared spectroscopy and fluorescence spectroscopy use honey's unique spectrum to detect polyphenols and amino acids that can produce fluorescence; differential scanning calorimetry is used to determine changes in heat characteristics in adulterated honey, such as changes in glass transition temperature (Tg); The pollen protein in honey is also used as chemical markers, and immunoblotting is used to identify the authenticity of honey.

However, each identification method has certain limitations and cannot fully guarantee the accuracy of the results. Honey contains complex chemical components, and the content of chemical components also has a wide range of changes, so several methods are needed to analyze together to improve the accuracy of the identification results.

Real natural honey will brew nectar with different ingredients due to different factors such as its place of production, season and time, plant species, and honey bees. Fake honey will not have these special natural ingredients. It is the future development direction to select the unique natural ingredients of honey as the key point of honey quality control.

In order to ensure that consumers can eat real honey, the state should continue to introduce new identification methods and standards, strengthen supervision, and severely penalize unscrupulous vendors who adulterate honey.

General test items

  1. Moisture
  2. Acidity
  3. Total reducing sugars
  4. Sucrose
  5. Fructose/ Glucose ratio
  6. Specific gravity
  7. Fiehes test
  8. Anilene chloride test
  9. HMF
  10. Ash
  11. Acid insoluble ash
  12. Invert sugars
  13. Color
  14. Refractive index
  15. Foreign matter
  16. Chloramphenicol (CAP)
  17. Nitro furans
  18. Streptomycin
  19. Tetracycline
  20. Sulfonamides
  21. Organochlorine Compounds
  22. Chlorbenzilate
  23. Hexachlorobenzene
  24. p, p DDT
  25. o, p DDT
  26. p, p DDE
  27. p, p DDD
  28. α-HCH
  29. β- HCH
  30. γ-HCH (Lindane)
  31. Vinclozolin

Simple and effective real honey test

Before buying:

1.Now the honey testing regulations in your area before buying

The honey standards issued by some countries or regions require the mention of added substances. Try to find the honey purity laws in your area so you know whether you can be relieved seeing a honey label on the bottle in your local grocery store.

In the European Union, any product sold as “honey” must not contain any additives, including antibiotics used to treat bee diseases. Any honey that seriously affects the taste must be sold as "Baker's honey" for processed food.

The US government does not test the purity of honey and allows the use of trace amounts of antibiotics. The USDA logo does not mean that the honey is pure.

Florida is the only state in the United States that requires honey to display all additives, as long as it is produced and sold in Florida. Beware of substances sold under other names, such as "honey mixtures" or "honey products" that do not fall under this law.

2. Check the label

In addition to the ingredient list, check the brand name or logo to check for "additives" or "added flavors." Pure honey should have only one ingredient: honey. However, even if other ingredients are not listed, the manufacturer may not be telling the truth.

3. Observe the color

The color of real pure honey has 7 grades from white to dark amber. The pure honey is transparent and has only a small amount of pollen scum suspended in it, and no other excessive impurities. The color of honey is different depending on the nectar source and plant, but the honey in the same bottle should be uniform in color, mostly transparent or translucent. Real honey contains some protein, biological enzymes, minerals, pollen, etc. Ingredients, so it does not look very clear, white, light yellow or amber, fake honey is just the opposite. Because fake honey is boiled with sugar or faked with syrup, it is bright in color, generally light yellow or dark yellow, with a delicate texture.

4. Tasting samples

Tasting is not an accurate way to test additives, but if you are most concerned about taste, it may just be a decision you need to make. Please note that the "weird" taste does not necessarily mean that the honey is not pure. There are many different kinds of honey. They are made from the nectar of different flowers, sap and even the secretions of sap-eating insects. Each of these will produce a different taste, even honey from the same beehive. Since they collect nectar from different sources, the tastes may also be different.

If the supermarket does not provide samples and you have no choice but to buy back the honey you want, how do you do the test at home?

Do honey test at home

  1. Fragrance Identification Method
    Smell the fragrance to recognize honey. Honey generally has a light floral fragrance, and the fragrance lasts for a long time. (Single nectar is the fragrance of the flower source of this species, while the native honey is made from various flowers and has a unique fragrance).
    1. If after standing for a while, the strong fragrance disappears, it is the blending of fake honey with essence.
    2. If it has a strong sweet taste similar to white sugar, it is a blend of honey with syrup or other substances added.
  2. Stickiness
    Real honey will not be sticky if rubbed between fingers, but fake honey is sticky due to the sweeteners added to its creation. This difference is easy to test and very obvious.
  3. Texture
    The real honey has a thick texture and takes some time to move, while the fake honey has a thinner texture and better fluidity. The best way to test this is to observe how long it takes for the honey to flow from one side of the pot to the other.
  4. Tasting
    The taste of real honey has the following characteristics:
    1. Eat the honey directly and swallow it slowly. Honey contains alkaloids, which will produce a spicy sensation.
    2. It is sweet and delicious, with a slightly sour taste. The crystalline lump will be crisp when you bite it, and it will melt in your mouth (fake honey has a bitter and astringent or sweet sugar taste, and the crystalline lump will be like granulated sugar with a crisp and loud sound when you eat it.).
  5. Shake method
    Take 2-3 spoons of honey, add it in a bottle with half a bottle of water, and shake it quickly. If it is real honey, there will be the following phenomena:
    1. A large amount of foam appears on the upper layer of the liquid, and it will not disappear for a long time, sometimes the foam can last for half an hour;
    2. The liquid part appears cloudy, because the honey contains protein, pollen, and gum (Fake honey not only has less foam and is easier to dissipate, and the liquid part is very clear).
  6. Real honey vs fake water test
    Take 5 ml of honey, dilute it with 5 times of water, stir it and let it stand for 24 hours. Suspended mass or sediment indicates that there is debris. The more sediment here, the greater the amount of adulteration. Pure honey does not have precipitate. In addition, you can put a spoonful of honey into the cup, and add four to five times hot water to melt it. After standing for three to four hours, if no precipitation occurs, the honey is free of impurities.
  7. Watch the crystal
    There is a misunderstanding that crystallized honey is fake honey. In fact, crystallization is a natural characteristic of honey. In the state of continuous low temperature, pure honey will crystallize, but the speed of crystallization varies (for example, acacia honey and longan honey are more difficult to crystallize). This is why a lot of honey crystallizes in winter.
    1. Use chopsticks to insert honey. Pure crystal honey is easy to insert, while honey mixed with sugar is not easy to insert and requires a lot of downward force;
    2. Take a small amount of crystalline honey and place it on your finger and twist it. The pure crystalline honey will melt quickly, while the fake crystalline honey will is hard to be twisted. (Note: The texture of crystalline honey with sugar is hard, and the honey that does not crystallize for a long time in the supermarket is added with anticoagulant or is fake).
  8. Wire
    Insert the red-hot iron wire into the honey. If there are sticky materials on the iron wire, it means that there are impurities in the honey. If the iron wire is still smooth, it means there are no impurities.
  9. Fire
    This test only checks whether water is added to the honey. Dip a cotton pad or the cotton wick into a little honey, and then shake off the excess honey. Try to light the cotton pad or wick. If it burns easily, water may not be added, but other substances may or may not be added. If it refuses to burn or makes a cracking sound, it may have added water.
  10. Bread
    Spread honey on a slice of bread. Real honey will harden in about 60 seconds. Fake honey will never harden, and will make the bread wet due to increased moisture. This is another simple test to determine if the honey you eat is pure.
  11. Match sticks
    Dip the match in honey. If the honey is real honey, it is easy to glow after immersion, but due to the high moisture content, fake honey will extinguish the match.
  12. Methylated spirits
    By combining it with methylated spirits, you can test whether honey is real or not. When real honey is mixed with methylated alcohol, the real honey will still settle on the bottom of any container. Fake honey dissolves in methylated alcohol and makes the solution milky white.
  13. Water absorption
    If you drop water droplets on the blotting paper, they will stay on top and will not be absorbed. If it is poured on white cloth material, pure honey will not stain it. However, fake honey will be absorbed by blotting paper, and it will stain it if dropped on white cloth.
  14. Egg Yolk
    If you pour pure honey into a container with egg yolks, the yolks will look like they are cooked when you stir them together. For fake honey, the egg yolk will not change during this process and will remain the same.

These kinds of honey don’t exist

1. Honeysuckle honey

The corolla of honeysuckle is long and thin, and the bee's mouth is very short, making it difficult to gather honey. The so-called honeysuckle nectar that appears in the market is using high-concentration honey soaked with buds of honeysuckle flower buds. Although it also contains the essence of flowers, it is not the same concept as the nectar directly collected by bees.

2. Rose Honey

The source of honey is nectar, and the source of nectar is plant nectary. When the plant is about to bloom, the nectary in the center of the flower secretes nectar, while the pistil and stamen of the rose at that time have shrunk. There is no nectary, let alone nectar.

3. Saussurea honey 

Saussurea usually grows above the snow line at an altitude of 4000 meters. The climate is changeable, rain and snow alternate. It is difficult for bees to survive. Can they fly to such a place to collect honey?

4. Grape Honey

The grape has only pollen but no nectar.

5. Pine Flower Honey

The pine tree blooms in May, but in May there are various kinds of flowers everywhere, and bees rarely pick it. Moreover, the honey flowing from the pine trees cannot be digested by the bees, and the bee is easy to get a belly disease and die. The beekeeper will not let the bees pick it. The pine tree symbolizes immortality. Those who want to live forever are gullible to it.

6. Scrophulariaceae nectar

Scrophulariaceae flowers cannot gather honey under natural conditions. Scrophulariaceae nectar on the market is made with Scrophulariaceae extract in real or fake honey.

7. Ginkgo Honey

The ginkgo flower itself hasn’t nectar. The ginkgo honey on the market is made of real or fake honey with ginkgo extract.

8. Coptis honey

Coptis Chinensis is mainly distributed in Shaanxi, Hubei and Sichuan. It is a well-known traditional Chinese medicine. Due to a large range of mining, wild Coptis Chinensis is extremely rare. At present, Coptis Chinensis is almost all cultivated by humans. The flowering period of Coptis Chinensis is from February to March, and the temperature is generally low. The bees are basically in the spring propagation period. The bees themselves need to be fed with sugar by the beekeeper.

Conclusion

Nowadays, the mixed fake and inferior honeys on the market beleaguer people. Nefarious merchants also adjust their counterfeiting methods according to national standards, making the popular online discrimination methods fail. At this time, the country’s effective regulatory standards and strong crackdowns are needed. Ordinary consumers can try to find trusted local beekeepers to buy real honey.

References

  • Duisberg, H. und Hadorn, H.: Welche Anforderungen sind an Handelshonige zu stellen? Mitt. Gebiete Lebensm. Hyg. 57, 386-407 (1966).
  • Council Directive of 22 July 1974 on the harmonization of the laws of the Member States relating to honey, 74/409/EEC, Official Journal of the European Communities, No L 221/14 1974.
  • Vorwohl, G.: Die Beziehung zwischen der elektrischen Leitfähigkeit der Honige und ihrer trachtmässigen Herkunft. In: Ann. de Abeille 7, 301-309 (1964).
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