Canadian Honey Industry Takes Action Against Fake Honey By Introducing the Government to New Forms of Testing

fake honeyHoney producers in western Canada have been showing concern for the way the Canadian Food Inspection Agency chooses to address increasing incidences involving fake honey. Producers believe that the current mainstream way of testing is failing to detect certain types of fake honey, and so a British Columbia beekeeper has spent $1 million in an effort to create a new form of testing that they are urging the government to make use of.

The current system the CFIA has in place to indicate whether the honey passing through them is adulterated or not is a standard test that involved a stable isotope ratio analysis that looks for C-4 sugars. This C-4 test is highly effective in detecting honey that has been altered by corn syrup but misses the mark when it comes to more creative variations such as those that use rice syrup.

This situation with fake honey has caused a major hit on the industry in Canada. The United States, one of Canada’s biggest markets, is treating Canadian honey the same as cheaper honey from places like Ukraine, which is putting a major dent in the honey industry. Also, honey sales from Australia have dropped by seven percent after a major incident with fraudulent honey.

Since this is an issue that concerns many in the honey business, some have taken it upon themselves to search for solutions of their own.

Peter Awram, a second-generation beekeeper with apiary facilities throughout British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, while producing honey north of Edmonton, has been one of the most vocal figures when it comes to ending the spread of fake honey. Awram states, “There is so much fraud in the industry, and I don’t know whether the industry will survive if something isn’t done about it,”. Not only has Awram talked about change, but he has also been actively making change happen by working on a new form of testing.

Utilizing his Ph.D. in molecular biology, Awram invested a fair amount of time, money, and passion into successfully finding a new method of honey testing that uses high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Setting up the laboratory cost close to a million dollars in funds, but the finished product was something Awram truly believes in. With this new way of testing, Awram is sure that the condition of the honey community will improve greatly, and is actively pushing for others to adopt it in hopes of making it the new norm.

“These machines (NMR) have been developed to basically look at the hydrogen atoms on a molecule, and the arrangement, and when you use an analytic lab, you can basically puzzle out the molecule structure,”, commented Awram when explaining his new method. “The majority is glucose and fructose, but there is also a whole lot of minor ones, so you can develop these sugar profiles and look at them, and you can really tell, not just that it’s honey but what kind, so whether it’s from clover, or canola, or alfalfa,”, he added.

Essentially, the difference between the current C-4 system, as well as other methods, and Awram’s NMR system, is that users can view the honey on a molecular level in order to see all the different kinds of molecules that in are in the sample. This will help in discovering exactly what kind of sugars are in the sample.

“It really gives you the possibility of finding out where the honey came from,”, Awram states and adds, “It’s supposed to be possible to even tell geographic origin with this machine. Part of what I’m doing is trying to flesh that out.”.

NMR machines are actually fairly common and available at most universities. What isn’t common is the specific probe, procedures, and conditions that Awram uses when testing a sample in order to get it at its peak comparison potential. Awram states, “You do these ring tests so machines around the world will process the same sample and make sure the results are comparable,”.

Only sixteen of the specific NMR machines needed that are produced by Bruker, an established supplier of analytical instruments, are in the world, and only one is in Canada.

Awram has been granted $175,000 by the government of British Columbia in order to compile a proper database of authentic honey samples produced within the province, as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. Awram also hopes to make a database cataloging fake honey as well by working with Chinese suppliers of rice syrup for the purpose of creating adulterated honey. This would be extremely helpful in allowing for simple tracking of honey samples.

While this is a brilliant start, Awram is still adamant about receiving more funding and support from the honey industry in order to make a nationwide database and assure that his testing method can eventually be utilized to its fullest potential.

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