Major brands fail honey test, big brands say they comply with FSSAI standards

Honey is sweet, honey is natural. Wait a minute, not anymore. According to a study by the Centre For Science and Environment(CSE) released on Wedneday, several leading honey brands have failed adulteration tests in Germany and that 77% samples in tests show honey is made up of sugar syrup. This comes as a big blow to leading brands like Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari and Apis Himalaya. The good news is, Saffola, Markfed Sohna and one sample of Nature’s Nectar passed the test. A total of 13 honey brands were tested. 8 of these are big brands found to be selling processed honey. 5 are niche brands while 4 out these 5 sell raw honey.

The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) laboratory tests conducted on honey samples are used globally as a measure of modified sugar syrup used. The other laboratory that the samples were sent to by CSE were Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF), National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Gujarat, India.


The samples were purchased from different batches from August to November 2020 across different shelves in Delhi.

The CSE report further states that samples sent to CALF, NDDB were tested on parameters set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) operationalized in 2020. The key adulteration parameters are tests for C4/C3 sugars, foreign oligosaccharides, Specific Marker for Rice (SMR) i.e. 2-acetylfuran-3-glucopyranoside (AFGP).

  • C4 sugars are those derived from C4 plants (plants using C4 photosynthetic pathway) such as corn, sugarcane
  • C3 sugars are those derived from C3 plants (plants using C3 photosynthetic pathway) such as rice, beet root
  • Foreign oligosaccharides are starch-based polysaccharide sugars such as from rice and corn


Dabur, Patanjali and Zandu denied that their honey products were adulterated and pointed out that they meet regulatory requirements laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

CSE’s director general Sunita Narain called this a food fraud. “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.” Said Sunit Narain in a statement.

Meanwhile, Dabur, Patanjali and Zandu have denied that their honey products were adulterated and say that the honey sold meets regulatory requirements laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

The study however have been a wake-up call for consumers of honey in India, even as big brands selling honey will have to prove these CSE findings wrong to keep their consumer loyalty intact.



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