The researchers at The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have alleged that many top Indian brands of honey including Dabur, Patanjali, and Zandu are selling honey adulterated with a modified sugar from China, which is difficult to detect by basic tests.
But the allegations were denied by these companies and pointed out that they meet regulatory requirements laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
According to CSE director general Sunita Narain, the organisation launched an investigation when beekeepers in North India reported reduced profits despite a spike in honey sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is a food fraud more nefarious and more sophisticated than what we found in our 2003 and 2006 investigations into soft drinks; more damaging to our health than perhaps anything that we have found till now – keeping in mind the fact that we are still fighting against a killer COVID-19 pandemic with our backs to the wall,” Narain said in a statement.
“Our research has found that most of the honey sold in the market is adulterated with sugar syrup. Therefore, instead of honey, people are eating more sugar, which will add to the risk of Covid-19.
Almost all, except Apis Himalaya, passed the basic tests of purity, the CSE said.
However, when the same brands were tested using NMR, which was conducted by a specialised laboratory in Germany, most brands failed. Of the 13 tested, only three brands passed the NMR test.
“It shows how the business of adulteration has evolved so that it can pass the stipulated tests in India,” said Amit Khurana, programme director of CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins team.
Saffola, MarkfedSohna, and Nature’s Nectar were the brands that passed all tests.