Non-EU honey farms suspected of lacing their product with syrup have been accused of “putting honest producers in jeopardy” after an investigation suggested that almost half of all imports could be adulterated.
Research by European Commission (EC) watchdogs recently revealed that 46 per cent of the honey shipped to Europe might breach the European Union’s (EU) product quality standards.
EU regulations say that honey must not feature any added sugar. However, 147 of the 320 samples that had been examined were found to contain some sort of syrup.
A spokesman for OLAF, the EC’s anti-fraud body, said: “While the risk for human health is considered as low, such practices defraud consumers and put honest producers in jeopardy as they face unfair competition from operators who can slash prices thanks to illicit, cheap ingredients.”
Most fake honey products originate from Turkey and China, according to the examination by OLAF and the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).
The OLAF official underlined that “honey naturally contains sugars and, according to EU legislation, must remain pure – meaning that it cannot have ingredients added to it.”
The spokesman explained: “Adulteration occurs when ingredients such as water or inexpensive sugar syrups are artificially added to increase the volume of honey.”
The detected syrup is reportedly based on rice, wheat and sugar beet.
Sixteen EU member states – including the continent’s leading honey providers Spain, Romania, Greece and Poland – participated in the investigation. The non-EU countries Norway and Switzerland, which have close economic ties to the association of nations, cooperated as well.
Data provided by OLAF shows that 70 importers and 63 exporters were found to be involved in the transfer of adulterated honey. The organisation has not yet made clear what kind of sanctions these businesses are facing.
There are an estimated 20 million hives in the EU’s 27 member states. The association of nations is not self-sufficient as far as human consumption of honey is regarded.