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NEW DELHI :

A clutch of honey brands from big fast moving consumer goods companies failed a key test to measure the presence of sugar syrup in the product. The test results and brand names were reported by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Wednesday. CSE is a not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organisation.

Honey samples from brands such as Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari and Apis Himalaya, all failed the internationally accepted Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy or NMR test, CSE said in its report. Only 3 out of the 13 brands, that is, Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Nature’s Nectar (one out of two samples) passed all the tests, it added.

Investigations by CSE with laboratory studies in India and Germany revealed adulteration in honey sold here with 77% of samples being found adulterated with sugar syrup.

Samples of these brands were first tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat.

CSE report comes at a time when sales of packaged honey have zoomed in the aftermath of covid 19 pandemic with consumers seeking immunity boosting products.

"This is a food fraud more nefarious and more sophisticated than what we found in our 2003 and 2006 investigations into soft drinks; more damaging to our health than perhaps anything that we have found till now – keeping in mind the fact that we are still fighting against a killer COVID-19 pandemic with our backs to the wall. This overuse of sugar in our diet will make it worse," said Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general Sunita Narain.

Narain added that this will further compromise health during the pandemic.

"We know that households today are consuming more honey because of its intrinsic goodness – antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Our research has found that most of the honey sold in the market is adulterated with sugar syrup. Therefore, instead of honey, people are eating more sugar, which will add to the risk of COVID-19. Sugar ingestion is directly linked to obesity, and obese people are more vulnerable to life-threatening infections," she said.

Companies refuted allegations put forth by CSE.

Home-grown fast-moving consumer goods company Patanjali said that it makes 100% natural honey which tested pure on more than 100 standards laid down by FSSAI for honey. The move said, Acharya Balkrishan, MD, Patanjali Ayurved, seems to be a plot to defame Indian natural honey industry and manufacturers in a bid to promote processed honey.

"Ayurved has been recommending natural honey for ages to boost immunity and to scale down inflammatory cytokines factors. It further seems to be a international marketing design to promote German technology and machines which cost crores of rupees. Besides, it is an attempt to lower down the market share of Indian honey in international trade," he said.

The Emami spokesperson, too, defended its Zandu honey brand: "Emami as a responsible organization ensures that it's Zandu Pure Honey conforms and adheres to all the protocols and quality norms and standards laid down by the Government of India and its authorised entities such as FSSAI." Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous body for food safety in India.

Dabur called the CSE report motivated. "We assure our consumers that Dabur Honey is 100% Pure. It is 100% indigenous, collected naturally from Indian sources and packed with no added sugar or other adulterants. We also assure our consumers that Dabur does not import any Honey/syrup from China and our Honey is sourced entirely from Indian beekeepers," said a company spokesperson in a statement to the press.

It further added that Dabur is complying with the 22 parameters mandated by FSSAI for testing Honey. "In addition, Dabur Honey is also tested for the presence of antibiotics, as mandated by FSSAI. Further, Dabur is the only company in India to have an NMR testing equipment in our own laboratory, and the same is used to regularly test our Honey being sold in the Indian market."

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