A study conducted by a team of scientists at Macquarie University in 2018, used 100 samples of honey sourced globally, including 38 Australian-brands honey samples, found that more than half of the samples sourced from Asia, mainly China, were adulterated and mixed with other non-honey substances. However, of the 38 samples sourced from Australian supermarkets and markets, 18 per cent, or almost one in five were shown adulterated.
Reportedly, honey is the world’s third most adulterated food, with addition of cane or corn sugar as well as mislabelling of geographic origin are common fraudulent practices in the honey market. A typical example is New Zealand’s most iconic honey, Manuka honey. According to research by UMFHA, the main trade association of New Zealand Manuka honey producers, 1,700 tons of Manuka honey are made annually representing almost all the world's production. Some 10,000 tons of produce is being sold internationally, including 1,800 tons in the UK. (Note 1)
Europe is also flooded with fake honey. A research undertaken in response to a European Parliament Report in 2013, on the most faked foods, in which honey was ranked 6th.
Honey fraud can take different forms. For instance, by selling cheaper multi-floral honey as single source honey at a higher selling point; by adding sugar syrups to increase the volume, or by harvesting it ahead of time and then drying it artificially in large 'honey factories', to cut time and costs. In all cases, the final product is far from what consumers think they’re buying, as well as from the EU’s legal definition of honey. (Note. 2)
Increased consumer awareness is pushing away from fake honey and European supermarkets are increasingly adopting NMR (Natural Management Resources) testing to avoid food fraud. But relying on the market to regulate itself only works until economic incentives are aligned with consumers’ interests, which are usually the exceptions and not the norms.