Developments (DTE 1-15 December 2020) (Download PDF)

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  • 2010: FSSAI issued an advisory to clarify that pesticide and antibiotic residues were not allowed in honey.
  • 2014: Honey standard was amended to include tolerance limits for antibiotics (how much or how little residue must be in honey) to pass quality standard
  • 2017: Tests to detect sugar made from cane, rice, and other crops like beetroot. Tests were to check adulteration by “foreign” sugars in honey
  • So, in 2014 – sugar syrup was an alternative to dilute the concentration
  • So, then laboratories came up with isotope tests to detect this adulteration and also Special Marker for Rice Syrup (SMR) , Trace Marker for Rice Syrup (TMR) , and foreign oligosaccharides, which help detect adulteration from starch-based sugars, like rice syrup.
  • 2019: FSSAI reverses decision to test key parameters such as SMR, TMR and Foreign oligosaccharides that would have allowed detection of rice sugar and other adulteration in honey
  • December 2019 & June 2020: FSSAI informs state food commissioners that sugar syrups are being used for adulteration. Asks for regular inspections
  • February 2020: Ministry of Commerce makes it mandatory for honey exports to be screened using NMR technology to detect sugar syrups. EIC sets up laboratory for this check
  • May 2020: FSSAI says it has been informed about adulteration of honey using golden syrup, invert sugar syrup and rice syrup. It asks importers to register with it and to inform of the usage of imported products
  • July 2020: FSSAI reinstates key parameters, but not TMR to detect rice syrup. Issues 2020 Standard.
The Developments


  • By reducing pollen count, FSSAI has legalised the practice of adulterating and selling rice syrup and corn syrup as honey
  • Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is absent in fresh honey and increases during processing and/or ageing of the product; thus, it provides an indication of overheating and storage in poor conditions. According to Codex, HMF after processing and/or blending shall not be more than 40 mg/kg, except from countries or regions with tropical ambient temperatures, where the HMF content shall not be more than 80 mg/kg;
  • Diastase is an enzyme naturally present in honey and is an indicator of the quality of honey. Heating the honey degrades the enzyme, which is why honey standards state minimum values. According to the Codex and EU standards, the diastase activity must not be less than 8 for processed honey, with exception given to honey with low enzyme content wherein this minimum value is set at 3. In India, this has been reduced from 8 to 3 in the last few years for all types of honey, including processed;
  • C4 sugar: Elemental Analysis-Stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry (EA-IRMS) was accepted as an official method by Association of Official Analytical Chemistry (AOAC) ;
  • C3 sugar: By applying liquid chromatography (LC) -IRMS for the determination of the — 13 C values of fructose, glucose, and sucrose in honey, and calculating the differences between these values, both the adulteration with C4 and C3 sugars can be detected;
  • SMR & TMR: rice syrup is difficult to detect by isotopic ratio analysis because it is derived from C3 plants. 2-acetylfuran-3-glucopyranoside (AFGP) is a specific compound in rice syrup that can be used as a marker for the detection of honey adulteration.
  • Oligosaccharides: are not normally present in authentic honeys at high concentrations and are therefore indicative of the presence of exogenous sugars. Spiking experiments have revealed that adulteration with rice syrup (C3 plant) could be detected using the per cent area of the oligosaccharide peak parameter. It is possible to detect adulteration with rice syrup at concentrations using the oligosaccharide per cent peak area parameter which was at this level of adulteration; (8) Proline: free amino acid used as an indication of quality in honey. Most of the proline in honey originates from the secretion of honeybees.

- Published/Last Modified on: April 2, 2021

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