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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
Honey is highly valued for its taste, aroma, naturalness, and its content of bio-actives. Unfortunately, not all honey on the market is genuine.
The JRC organised a Round Table Discussion to identify ways of detecting fraud in the honey supply chain and to find consensus on the best approaches to ensure authenticity of this important agricultural product.
Honey is a natural product which has been valued for its sweetening properties since ancient times and has a long history of medicinal use.
The provisions of the EU Honey Directive aim at preserving the purity of honey as an unprocessed raw agricultural product, excluding modifications to its chemical composition.
In the EU, market demand for honey is higher than domestic production and a substantial amount of honey is imported. Unfortunately, not all honey placed on the market is genuine and results obtained through a Coordinated Control Plan at the EU level revealed that at least 14 % of the samples controlled did not conform to purity benchmarks.
As a follow-up the JRC organised a Round Table Discussion with stakeholders of the honey production chain and representatives of the competent authorities in the Member States as well as from European Commission services to identify gaps in knowledge related to authenticity testing of honey and possibilities to mitigate them.
Adulteration of honey with sugar syrups was seen as the most widely observed malpractice followed by misdescription of geographical and/or botanical origin of honey.
The lack of compositional data (chemical fingerprints) of authentic honeys and the products that are used as adulterants was seen as the biggest hurdle for official control purposes.
On the basis of insights gained during the workshop JRC will further discuss with all stakeholders how to generate the missing information.
More information regarding the outcome of the Coordinated Control Plan, including a Question and Answer section, is available at
JRC Technical Report - Scientific support to the implementation of a Coordinated Control Plan with a view to establishing the prevalence of fraudulent practices in the marketing of honey -Results of honey authenticity testing by liquid chromatography-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (PDF)
As part of the JRC involvement in the honey authenticity survey a book chapter has been published summarising advances in analytical technologies to detect honey adulteration.
F. Ulberth: Advances in Testing for Adulteration in Honey, Advances in Food Authenticity Testing, A volume in Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition (2016) Pages 729–753, doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-100220-9.00026-6