How to Check for Adulteration in Honey?
Written by Siddhi Latey
An ingredient that can make our food taste delightful and yet have a negative far-reaching effect on our health is sugar. As per author, Yuval Noah Harari, “sugar is a greater danger than gunpowder.” To prevent sugar-induced obesity, increased risk of heart diseases, and blood sugar problems, we’ve begun looking for healthier alternatives to replace the sweetener. Interestingly, our next best bet is the moderate use of honey. It has been advocated for improving heart health, healing wounds faster, and because it is rich in several important antioxidants — such as phenolic acids and flavonoids it may also boost immunity health by fighting disease-causing free radicals.
However, a recent investigation probed by the Centre for science and Environment (CSE) revealed that the honey that is being sold by several major market players today is adulterated and laced with sugar syrup - the very same ingredient we are trying to run away from. This unfortunate and rampant adulteration of food calls for consumers to be more conscious and aware of their food purchases. So, to help you enjoy the health benefits offered by honey, we’ve put together a list of the following simple tests you can conduct at home before you decide to add a specific brand of honey to your diet:-
The Ingredients Test
Adulteration is common in commercially sold honey. In most cases where honey is made in big factories, glucose solution, high fructose corn syrup, or other similarly harmful ingredients are mixed into our honey. Perhaps the easiest way to catch adulteration is to examine the label of your honey before buying it. If the list of ingredients includes anything such as “added flavours” or “additives” the manufacturer might not be telling or selling the truth. Pure honey ought to have only one ingredient and that is honey itself. Any other addition hints at adulteration.
The Water Test
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recommends a simple water test to determine whether the honey you are consuming is adulterated or not:
- Pour some warm water into a glass
- Add a spoonful of honey to it
- Observe: If the honey settles to the bottom of the glass in its entirety, then chances are it is not adulterated. However, if the honey dissolves in water, then it is considered to be impure.
The consistency of honey and its composition is such that it does not dissolve easily in water. If your honey is laced with sugar, it will mix in with water easily.
The Thumb Test
This test relies on the thick consistency that is expected from pure, unadulterated honey.
- Place a small amount of honey on your thumb and observe its texture
- Observe: If it spills, spreads around, or is runny, then, unfortunately the honey you have is impure
This is because unadulterated honey tends to stick to the surface it is applied to without dripping.
The Flame Test
Exercise adequate caution while performing this test as it relies on the fact that pure honey is inflammable:
- Take a dry matchstick and dip it in honey
- Strike the honeyed matchstick against the matchbox
- If it ignites, your honey is pure and if not, your honey includes some amount of moisture, revealing its adulteration
The Taste Test
The taste of pure honey does not linger in your mouth and goes away in the span of a few minutes. Moreover, heating honey alters its taste and robs it of its nutritional value. Adulterated honey on the contrary leaves behind an after taste owing to its added sugar and other sweeteners. An experienced honey taster can even differentiate pure honey from its impure counterpart based on its aroma. Pure honey has a subtle aroma of certain flowers and wild grass as opposed to the industrial sour smell of impure honey.
The Vinegar Test
The mixture of vinegar and water is often used to determine the purity of honey:
- Take a glass and add a spoonful of honey to it
- Add 2-3 drops of vinegar to the glass
- Pour a small amount of water into the above mixture
- Leave it aside for a few minutes and then observe
- If the concoction foams up, there is a very high chance that your honey is adulterated
The Heat Test
Upon heating, pure honey caramelises easily. Impure honey on the contrary does not caramelise easily and becomes bubbly when heated. This is again owing to the moisture, water, and sugar that is added to the honey.
The Blot Test
To ascertain whether the honey you have is diluted with water:-
- Take a blotting paper or a paper towel
- Pour a small drop of honey onto it
- If it gets absorbed or leaves a watermark, your honey might be impure
Pure honey does not get absorbed by a paper towel or a blotting paper. However, honey that has been diluted with most sugar syrups would also not get absorbed by a paper towel. The reliable determinant here is the watermark that impure honey might leave behind.
The Scientific Test
Scientists and researchers often scrutinise the authenticity of honey so that the consumers are not fooled by manufacturers. To examine the purity of honey several national and international authorities assess its physicochemical properties and sugar composition, and undertake elemental analysis, etc. to make sure that the health benefits of honey are reaped by the consumer. The inclusion of additional sweeteners such as acid inverted sugar syrups, corn syrups, syrups of natural origin such as maple, cane sugar, beet sugar, and molasses have also been used for honey adulteration. Unfortunately, the adulteration of honey has been revealed in India as well as several international markets such as Australia, Middle east and China. Therefore, we must exercise complete caution to ensure that the honey we buy retains its nutritional value and is in its purest form.
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