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The purity of Australian honey



Another expose of the honey industry.

Particularly interesting regarding the Manuka honey fraud where there are only around 1,700 tonnes produced but there are around 10,000 tonnes sold. It really speaks volumes about the honey fraud.

It is reminiscent of the Egyptian cotton fraud expose last year whereby the amount of Egyptian cotton items sold globally was many times greater than the amount of Egyptian cotton produced, causing one major USA retail chain to stop selling such items and offer all their customers a full refund.


Back to the Honey Honesty sagas.

Do we need a national registration and accreditation scheme for honey? It may also serve for a limited range of genuine Australian products that should be protected from misrepresentation, imitation, and fakery.

Domestic product integrity or assurance, economic value and international product reputations are all at risk. Obviously the current rewards for fooling the consumer are much greater than the risks. The damage to our export markets also hurt the producers and indirectly the consumer through the broader economy.

Italy and France as examples have long had to deal with these issues over wine products, cheese etc. They have schemes to provide attestion and registration, region or authenticity, and variety recognition.

While any system can be subject to fraud, any such legislated requirements can be backed up by additional penalties that target a particular industry of significance, eg Australian Honey. The penalties could specifically apply to adulteration, mislabelling or falsely stating the product origins and purity of that product. Penalties proportionate to the economic harm done or benefit gained with many many zeroes on the end might be needed to ensure the financial benefits of gaming the system are far outweighed by the consequences. There is good reason to include the key offences as criminal acts with incarceration as a penalty.

Current legislation is more intent on food safety outcomes. Issues around discription and labelling may be more a marketing misdemeanour than a criminal fraud?

Most states have in place systems for registration of commercial hives and some for domestic also. There are a limited number of producers representative groups who may support a more formalised program to remove risk from the industry and secure their integrity and livelihoods? Any penalties could go back into the industry for enforcement as well as research to aid safe honey production.

Whether our current legislation is adequate, it seems likely someone is asleep at the wheel or driving the truck full of dodgy produce? Taking advantage of the consumer and Greed may not be a malaise unique to the local Banking and Financial Services sector.

I wait with interest the 30 second fix from the latest Prime Minister and the real fix from his Deputy? Are Bee Keepers industrialists or farmers I wonder?


And there will be more to come. My guess is that the industry insiders know a fair bit more about this but have decided in the past that they don’t want to open the can of worms, as even the honest ones will get caught up in the purge if they name and shame.

Note that this study uses the C4 test according to current standards to determine purity, despite the high numbers found to be adulterated they ought to have been caught out by current testing but apparently were not. This suggests that the current testing regime is useless to detect even C4 adulteration. Are they under-funded? Are they incompetent or corrupt?

This study did not use NMR the test that can detect adulteration by C3 sugars, so potentially there are more ring-ins to be found if this test was used.

What they found, using trace element analysis, was that geographic origin labelling is also being rorted. This matters for several reasons, including because place of origin may command a price premium. They allege that much more Manuka honey is sold than produced.

So far the industry has presented blanket denials. How long until there is a move to amend the testing regime? Who will move first the industry or the regulators? Stay tuned for much more excitement.


Perhaps some “Mixed Blossom” honey needs to be more aptly labelled “Mixed Blessings” honey? Made from a mixture of good and not so good.

My latest jar of locally labelled honey is aptly labelled “Raw Honey”. I won’t speculate on it’s authenticity or detail the supplier as they are likely one of the good guys. I am also aware of the difference between raw and pure, in theory. In practice I now doubt all product I have not personally extracted from a hive.


I had been trying for about two weeks to unsubscribe to Change…however as I had never had a password, and that was the only way I could, to keep a long story short, I had to get Telstra Planinum (my saviours) to unplug me from them.’ The thing that got in my craw was, they would not let me sign if I did not have a Facebook A/C, so what is that all about. So to them I could therefore donate instead!!!
So glad to be rid of them.


According to the ABC article “Honey is the third most adulterated food in the world, behind milk and olive oil”. “In Australia, authorities only test imported honey with 5 per cent tested using the C4 sugar test”.

I don’t think it mentioned what percentage of locally made honey was tested, but I would venture to suggest it is no more than 5%. Therefore 95% or less of all honey sold in Australia is NOT tested.

More importantly, of the 5% tested, the current standard allows honey which is a bit adulterated through to be sold according to The Department of Agriculture - Tests applied to surveillance food (Honey)The results of analysis for evidence of C4 sugar adulteration (AOAC 998.12) will be assessed as non-compliant where the laboratory analysis reports a result greater than 10%. A test result between 7% and 10% indicates the likelihood of other sugars being present. In these cases, the honey will be released by the department and the importer notified and advised to contact their overseas suppliers to assure themselves that future consignments will comply.

The agencies doing checking and testing of imported goods have been chronically underfunded by successive Governments, so for some years they can only do risk based spot checking. Any importer caught doing the wrong thing is either dead unlucky, or incredibly silly.

This is why in this case the public is not being alerted to honey adulterations.


The indignation. What a surprise?

Almost 20 per cent of Australian honey samples found to not be pure


I have always been of the understanding that ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ is a criminal matter.

To be honest, I don’t understand why honey manufacturers would see a need to adulterate their product. I can understand people claiming to be selling ‘Manuka’ honey (which is simply well-marketed honey), but why adulterate honey?

You sure you don’t mean

they couldn’t bear to be caught with their paws in the honey jar?

Which should be fine, as you test the batch rather than asking for a ‘test sample’ or anything so naive. If your 1 jar in 20 is unadulterated, then the other 19 are almost certainly unadulterated.

I suspect that the test is not rigorous enough to be certain, giving the wording here. That means we need better tests - as you imply, something that won’t happen without spending money.

We clearly need better food regulation and greater enforcement. Unfortunately, these things are normally funded by industry levies, and of course industries don’t like paying money for government oversight. They are normally involved in the agency doing the oversight (at the board level), and can put a lot of pressure to bear to ensure it doesn’t look too closely at certain areas.


Honey, it’s not adultery it’s just adulteration, it didn’t really mean anything. I will still love you even if you are impure.


I agree with you that the sample test methodology is a reasonable predictor.

I could be wrong, but my interpretation of the “only 5% tested” is that only 5% of batches or shipments are tested. Which in turn means that the actual number of tests compared to the actual volume sold is very low.


Greed. The syrups they use are far cheaper than honey. They can sell their product cheaper than bee-keepers can produce honey. They can also sell more “honey” than is produced. IIRC, the latest 730 report pointed out that ten times as much Manuka is sold than is produced.


Capilano take issue with testing. However they do admit that regulator testing is not good enough.


Because the sugar substitutes are much cheaper than the real thing so they are making big profits and because, as we have seen, the fraud has not been easy to detect. In a world with growing demand and beset with supply problems cheating is very tempting.

I think we will discover this fraud is more widespread, both internationally and domestically, than has been hinted at so far and has been going on for a long time. There are very disturbing figures going around that in some regions much more honey is sold than produced. I think we will find there are some local vendors who have been direct participants and have done their own blending and others who have imported honey from overseas that they knew was too cheap but carefully did not enquire too much or test it.


Yet another fake honey article.

It should be very concerning for persons buying expensive manuka honey as the map claims all NZ honey is adulterated.


6 posts were split to a new topic: Bees and Crop Pollination


And they didn’t even reference me…


An article regarding a takeover of Capilano Honey.


This statement is not true. The private consortium which is making the take over bid for Capilano are non-Chinese companies (they are Australian based investment houses). The two main parties in the consortium are Wattle Hill and investment manager Roc Partners.

Wattle Hill was co-founded by Albert Tse, the husband of Jessica Rudd, daughter of former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, and targets businesses. ‘Headquartered in Sydney, with offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, Wattle Hill RHC is a private equity fund focused on investments in quality Australian businesses that offer products and services in demand by Chinese consumers. Wattle Hill RHC identifies leading enterprises that will benefit from China’s economic growth and development then helps them prepare for and navigate Chinese market entry and expansion. Wattle Hill RHC is one of the only investment firms with a defined concurrent focus on the Chinese and Australian markets.

ROC Partners formed from the management buy-out of the Macquarie Group’s private markets business unit by its senior executives in June 2014. (Macquarie is possibly Australia’s best known investment bank).

These two investment houses specialise in investing in enterprises which there are significant growth possibilities in China (Asia). They also are likely to have Australian and foreign investors providing the necessary resources/capital for the take over.

Saying it has been sold to China is misleading and emotive wording.


The headline is emotive but clicking through to the link is essentially what @phb states.

One may reasonably wonder about longer term outcomes when any major business is taken over by any structure from anywhere with a stated goal of exporting to a particular country or region, as compared to focusing on domestic customers.

There have long been jokes that our governments and industries are only too happy to sell whatever they can to whoever they can for a quick dollar, and with board and investor approval this is just another notch in the future whereby Australia and Australians may be no more than tenants on the land.


ACCC returns an open finding on the Capilano case.

The ACCC’s deputy chair Mick Keogh told Fairfax Media on Friday that the commission had concluded its investigation and found no evidence that Capilano’s Allowrie product was adulterated with sugar syrup.

However, he said that based on expert advice, it found that the none of the available methods to test honey - the C4 or the NMR - were reliable enough to stand up in court.

“On those two bases, we made the decision we can’t proceed any further with this matter," Mr Keogh told Fairfax Media.

So Capilano have not been cleared, it is an open finding due to lack of good evidence.

We need a suite of standard reference samples of bona fide honey so that the NMR method will stand up in court.

Whose responsibility is this and what are they doing about it? Collection, verification and testing will take months. Has anybody even made a start yet?