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Fake honey — often diluted with various syrups (e.g. beet, corn and rice) for economic gain — looks just like the real deal. Unfortunately for consumers, if you can’t see the fraud, the more likely a particular food is to be tampered with. Thus, honey is especially attractive to scammers.
The sticky stuff was recently the subject of a Canadian investigation, and in line with its dubious “third most faked food” title, the findings are significant. Over a 14-week period last summer (June-September 2018), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted targeted surveillance on honey across the country. It found that 21.7 per cent of the samples it tested were tainted with added sugars, all of which were imported.
“Honey that has been deliberately adulterated is considered food fraud, which deceives consumers about what they are buying and creates an unfair market for those selling authentic honey,” the CFIA says in its report , adding that it prevented roughly 12,800 kg of impure imported honey, valued at nearly $77,000, from coming into the country.
For its analysis, the CFIA tested the 240 total samples using two methods: The first identified thinning with sugar cane and corn syrups; the second detected those contaminants as well other sugars derived from plants, such as rice and sugar beet.
The agency collected samples from a range of companies, including distributors, importers and retailers, and worked with the Canada Border Services Agency on the project. The CFIA notes that import taxes may play an additional role in inciting fraudsters to misrepresent an artificial product: “Pure honey is duty-free whereas artificial honey (whether or not mixed with genuine honey) involves a rate of duty.”
As an APIMONDIA (the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations) statement on honey fraud points out, while the sweetener has a long history of attracting scammers, “the conditions for honey fraud have never before been so well aligned.” Among them, as honeybee colonies continue to collapse, honey is becoming more expensive to produce. In contrast, fraud is lucrative.
Over the past few years, the CFIA states in its report, the agency “has become aware of the risk that the adulteration of honey with foreign sugars has increased, both in Canada and globally.” It adds that it will continue to monitor honey as well as apply similar surveillance strategies to other goods susceptible to fraud.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019