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Honey adulterants

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  • Joe Franke
    This issue might be straying a bit from bee monitoring per se, but it¹s still within the realm of apiculture and the social issues surrounding beekeeping...so
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 4, 2013
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      Honey adulterants This issue might be straying a bit from bee monitoring per se, but it’s still within the realm of apiculture and the social issues surrounding beekeeping...so please bear with me.

      As some of you know, I’ve been working on a project in Belize to revive traditional meliponiculture there, and in the course of doing surveys I had the opportunity to buy a great deal of honey to spray around. I found the quality of the honey purchased at local, mostly Chinese-run groceries, to be absolutely horrific. A lot of it was bottled rather crudely, with very homey-looking labels indicating family run honey operations, but I think a lot of this stuff is sold bulk wholesale and bottled on the spot. The stuff looked and tasted odd, being very runny and only vaguely sweet, but I really became concerned after finding that meliponine bees were not attracted to it. There’s been a lot in the news lately about adulterated honey in the world market, mostly mixed with sugar, corn syrup etc. and some vague references to “other substances”. In this case,  I suspect that one of the adulterants was propylene glycol or something like it. The Chinese produce immense amounts of propylene glycol as a food additive (I suppose small amounts are not acutely toxic) and as an aviation de-icer, so I would imagine that it’s relatively cheap.

      Do any of you think that this is a conceivable scenario? Any references to honey adulteration practices, news stories, arrest reports, etc. would be much appreciated, as my experiences in Belize and elsewhere have gotten me interested in a bit of muckraking on the issue.

      Overall, I find it ironic that world demand for honey is at an all time high while honeybee populations are simultaneously in steep decline, which is leading to increased reports of adulterating supply.

      Joe
    • pollinator2001
      ... The bulk of the Chinese honey is so ultra processed that it no longer fits the legal definition of honey, though, AFAIK, no enforcement actions are being
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 4, 2013
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        --- In beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com, Joe Franke <sapogordoeco@...> wrote:
        >

        > Do any of you think that this is a conceivable scenario? Any references to
        > honey adulteration practices, news stories, arrest reports, etc. would be
        > much appreciated, as my experiences in Belize and elsewhere have gotten me
        > interested in a bit of muckraking on the issue.


        The bulk of the Chinese honey is so ultra processed that it no longer fits the legal definition of honey, though, AFAIK, no enforcement actions are being taken.

        When honey is so processed that there can be no determination of floral source by pollen analysis, what is to stop adulteration?


        > Overall, I find it ironic that world demand for honey is at an all time high
        > while honeybee populations are simultaneously in steep decline, which is
        > leading to increased reports of adulterating supply.

        I am highly skeptical that honey bee populations are in steep decline. For one, I know that the USDA statistical counts are highly questionable - only hives that produce honey are counted, and those that are used exclusively for pollination contracts are not. Plus there has been an explosion of new hobby beekeepers, whose bees probably are not counted. So don't necessarily believe the media hype.

        Many of the media report 30% losses over winter. That's a bit higher than normal, but the industry can sustain those kinds of loses, as long as the business is profitable, because they are easily replaced. Southern and migratory beekeepers have geared up to replace 30% or even higher losses in the North, if necessary.

        My observation is that native, or wild bees are declining faster than honey bees. They have few human defenders, and no help at all to recover when pesticides are misused.

        I have fruit trees that used to be humming with hundreds of wild bees when they bloomed. Now I have to look for a while to find two or three wild bees. I have provided housing and mud for mason bees, and yet this did not see a single one on my apples.

        I was pleased during a break in the rain yesterday, to see the first Megachilid bee on my Echinacea, and today the first Melissodes and a tiny Ceratina. These are in full and hearty bloom, and should be covered with a variety of bees by now. Mostly what I see is skippers and a few honey bees.

        Dave Green
        Retired pollination contractor
      • Joe Franke
        Just to clarify: this is not meliponine honey. It is honeybee honey, or that¹s what it¹s being sold as...whatever it is. ... Re: [beemonitoring] Honey
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 5, 2013
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          Re: [beemonitoring] Honey adulterants Just to clarify: this is not meliponine honey. It is honeybee honey, or that’s what it’s being sold as...whatever it is.




          On 7/5/13 9:52 AM, "Alicia Basilio" <apis1b@...> wrote:

          Hi.
          Melipondos honey is more moist and liquid than of Apis mellifera honey. Also more acidic, naturally fermented. In some cases, if the harvest technique is not refined, pheromones of bees, which are strong and noticeable in some species, smell honey.
          The methylene glycol is toxic. The propilen glycol was used for a long time to pediatric cough syrups. Its taste is very strong and unpleasant. I do not think that honey is mixed with it.
          One possibility is syrup. The easiest way to see this honey adulteration is to analyze dextrins alien to honey ones in a food science lab.
          You may contac to Patricia Vit en Venezuela, she is expert in melipone honey.

          De: Joe Franke <sapogordoeco@...>
          Para: "beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com" <beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com>
          Enviado: jueves, 4 de julio de 2013 19:18
          Asunto: [beemonitoring] Honey adulterants
           
          This issue might be straying a bit from bee monitoring per se, but it’s still within the realm of apiculture and the social issues surrounding beekeeping...so please bear with me.

          As some of you know, I’ve been working on a project in Belize to revive traditional meliponiculture there, and in the course of doing surveys I had the opportunity to buy a great deal of honey to spray around. I found the quality of the honey purchased at local, mostly Chinese-run groceries, to be absolutely horrific. A lot of it was bottled rather crudely, with very homey-looking labels indicating family run honey operations, but I think a lot of this stuff is sold bulk wholesale and bottled on the spot. The stuff looked and tasted odd, being very runny and only vaguely sweet, but I really became concerned after finding that meliponine bees were not attracted to it. There’s been a lot in the news lately about adulterated honey in the world market, mostly mixed with sugar, corn syrup etc. and some vague references to “other substances”. In this case,  I suspect that one of the adulterants was propylene glycol or something like it. The Chinese produce immense amounts of propylene glycol as a food additive (I suppose small amounts are not acutely toxic) and as an aviation de-icer, so I would imagine that it’s relatively cheap.

          Do any of you think that this is a conceivable scenario? Any references to honey adulteration practices, news stories, arrest reports, etc. would be much appreciated, as my experiences in Belize and elsewhere have gotten me interested in a bit of muckraking on the issue.

          Overall, I find it ironic that world demand for honey is at an all time high while honeybee populations are simultaneously in steep decline, which is leading to increased reports of adulterating supply.

          Joe


        • Cane, Jim
          Joe- if the adulterant is corn syrup, my recollection is that the sugar maltose will be present, which is not found in nectars to any appreciable extent. I
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 5, 2013
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            Joe- if the adulterant is corn syrup, my recollection is that the sugar maltose will be present, which is not found in nectars to any appreciable extent.    I had worked with sugar chemistry some for one project on solitary bee provisions, but Gillian Eggleston with USDA-ARS in Louisiana  was my masterful guide into the sample prep and chromatography, as there are a number of pitfalls.  Perhaps she could be of help if you wish to pursue it.  Here is an article about her:

            http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/may11/sugarcane0511.pdf

             

            Jim

             

            ===============================

            James H. Cane

            USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit

            Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322 USA

            tel: 435-797-3879   FAX: 435-797-0461

            email: Jim.Cane@... 

            web page: www.ars.usda.gov/npa/beelab

            publications: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/piru/

            Gardening for Bees: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/plants-pollinators09.pdf

             





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