With the holidays rolling in fast, we might be tilting to buy jars upon jars of honey for our hamon servings, not knowing that these might be fake “supermarket” honey.
That’s what researchers from the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) warned the public about after announcing their findings that at least 80% of honey brands being sold in the market aren’t real honey.
Presented as part of this year’s Philippine Nuclear Research and Development Conference, their research studied a total of 131 honey brands sold across various means: 57 came from supermarkets, boutiques, and souvenir shops, while 74 came from online sellers. Of those sold physically, 16 were locally made, while all of those sold online claimed the same.
Using ISCIRA, or the internal standard stable carbon isotope ratio analysis, the researchers traced honey adulteration in the form of sugars derived from corn and sugarcane. Of the 74 online-bought honey brands, 64 or 86.5 percent showed traces of said sugars. Meanwhile, 12 out of the 16 local honey brands sold physically, or 75 percent, showed the same adulteration.
Should we be concerned if we’re not getting pure honey? Researchers say yes.
“You may be buying honey for its wonderful health benefits but because of adulteration, you may actually just be buying pure sugar syrup. Consuming too much pure sugar syrup can lead to harmful health effects,” Angel Bautista VII of the PNRI shared.
Aside from adverse health effects, the prevalence of fake honey can also pull the price of honey down, at the expense of honest and genuine beekeepers and honey-makers.
So how do you spot “supermarket” honey or those that are artificially manufactured to taste like the real thing?
How it looks, smells, feels, and tastes
For starters, real honey shouldn’t be runny. It should be thick, taking time to flow from one side of the jar to another. However, just because it’s thick doesn’t mean it should be gluey, as is often the case with fake honey. If you’re allowed to dip your finger into the jar, it should feel smooth, not sticky.
You could try smelling it too: real honey will have a mild, almost floral scent since it should have been collected and bottled right away. Adulterated honey will smell neutral or even sour since it already underwent heating and cooling.
If you can, try tasting it too. Sure, all honey tastes the same, but the flavor of fake honey shouldn’t have to linger for more than a couple of minutes. Yet it does, because of the sugar that’s in it.
Tests, tests, and more tests
Honey experts have what they call the flame test, the matchstick test, the bread test, and the vinegar test.
The flame test is simple, just cook the honey. Fake honey caramelizes and produces bubbles, unlike real honey which just gets thicker.
To do the matchstick test, dip a matchstick into the honey and try to light it. If it doesn’t, that’s because the moisture of fake honey is keeping it from doing so. Real honey is flammable and thus, should light just fine.
The same principle applies to the bread test, where you spread the honey onto bread. If honey doesn’t harden after a minute, it’s probably fake and will moisten the bread instead. Real honey is bound to harden after being exposed to air.
Lastly, to do the vinegar test, mix equal parts of honey, water, and vinegar together, and stir. If it foams up, that means the solution isn’t pure, which means it’s fake honey.
Just read the label
Or, you know just the product’s label at the back. Technically, store-bought honey is supposed to have a breakdown of what it’s made of. If it’s packed with sugar-tainted protein, then it should say so. Finding real honey should be simple: it’s made of nothing but that.
Sure, the authenticity of honey may hardly matter to us in the big picture, but if we won’t do it for ourselves, at least do it for the honest beekeeping businesses who look after the precious bees.
Look up honey producers in your community, support small local businesses, and get your honey straight from the source.