Honey adulteration is a global problem and Mexico is not exempt from this problem. Besides the fraud that means for the consumer to acquire a product without authenticity, its commercialization represents an affectation for the beekeeping sector, explained Alfonso Gardea Béjar, academic of the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (CIAD).
The researcher commented that recently a court in Los Angeles County (USA) filed a lawsuit against large importers of honey from Asia, as well as against laboratories that certified adulterated honey as adequate, which, in addition to representing a fraud to the American consumer, leads to unfair competition for American beekeepers.
Adulteration consists of the addition or substitution of bee honey with syrups of a different nature, frequently made from high fructose, and also by thermal treatments that prevent crystallization and exceed the honey's tolerance limit, resulting in a decomposition of its constituent elements.
In Mexico, this problem has been recognized as such in the Federal Beekeeping Law, recently approved in the Chamber of Deputies, where it was established that honey is a perfect, main and basic food for the health of society and human life.
Although honey is the best-known product produced by bees, other by-products are equally important, such as propolis, royal jelly, wax, and venom. Likewise, in their daily work, bees provide an important environmental service by pollinating plants, not only crops but also wild plants, thus contributing to the floristic composition of the ecosystem, so protecting bees has a number of positive effects, said the academic.
How to identify adulterated honey?
Gardea Béjar explained that the crystallization (granulation) of the honey is the best proof that the product was not added with other syrups and that it was not overheated. In the beehive, he added, crystallization is the best mechanism for storing the honey produced, so that the bees can consume it in times when it is not being produced.
The nature of the sugar components that are often used to adulterate honey has different effects on human metabolism, and is particularly important in the management of blood glucose levels, as this is a crucial condition for people suffering from diabetes. In traditional pharmacopeia, honey is an important element to treat burns, so an adulterated product can represent a serious health risk.
Within the rural agenda, beekeeping activity is important, not only from its obvious economic and social perspective but also from the environmental perspective, the academic stressed. "Within the livestock sector, the export of honey represents the second source of foreign exchange, only surpassed by the export of calves, so it is essential that the authorities guarantee the conditions for this food to be marketed appropriately for the benefit of consumers and regional development."
Finally, the researcher encouraged consumers to report cases of adulterated honey that they identify to the Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco) and pointed out that this issue should be considered of primary interest to beekeepers' associations since their activity is seriously threatened by this malpractice. It is estimated that 60% of the honey marketed along highways is adulterated; however, it is also a bad practice in packaged and labeled products", he concluded.