Authenticity of honey

As defined in the EU honey directive 2001/110/EC, honey is the natural sweet substance produced by Apis mellifera bees from plant nectar or honeydew. Honey that is placed on the market in the EU must meet the composition criteria outlined in the directive and must not contain food additives or other additional ingredients.

Honey adulteration through the addition of cheaper sugar syrups is a typical type of food fraud. In 2023, the EU’s Joint Research Centre published a technical report in which 46% of the analyzed samples showed signs of containing exogenous sugars. The declaration of botanical and geographical origin is also subject to adulteration, as honey sold under a protected designation is more valuable.

Several techniques can be used for honey authenticity testing, often in combination:

  1. NMR (1H-NMR) can be used to obtain a chemical fingerprint of honey, providing information on the botanical and geographical origins, as well as possible addition of exogenous sugars.

  2. Pollen analysis with microscopy supplements NMR data on botanical and geographical origins.

  3. Stable isotope analysis (EA-IRMS) is used to determine whether honey has been extended with sugars from C4 plants, such as sugarcane or corn. It can also detect the addition of sugars from C3 plants to some extent.

  4. Methods based on liquid chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) can be used to determine if honey contains exogenous oligosaccharides and, with additional precision, if honey has been extended with sugars from C3 plants, such as rice and sugar beet.

This honey authenticity testing package can be used to determine whether the sample meets the definitions and criteria set for honey in Council Directive 2001/110/EC. This includes confirming the botanical and geographical origin and checking the honey for extension with sugar syrups.

Suitable sample matrices
Honey
Required sample quantity
100 g
Available quality systems
Accredited test method
Device types

Questions? We're happy to help.

Questions? We're happy to help.

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