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Honey sold by 10 major brands, including Dabur, Patanjali, Zandu and Apis Himalaya, were found adulterated with sugar syrup in tests carried out by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

CSE, in a report released on Wednesday, called the adulteration nefarious as people are consuming increased amounts of immunity-boosting products, including honey, amid the coronavirus pandemic.


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Only three brands—Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Societe Naturelle—cleared all the tests, including the internationally accepted nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or NMR, test for sugar syrup.

One sample of Nature’s Nectar passed the NMR test while another failed it.

Investigations by CSE with laboratory studies in India and Germany found 77% of the samples sold in India adulterated with sugar syrup.

“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 CSE director general Sunita Narain.

“We know that households today are consuming more honey because of its intrinsic goodness—anti-microbial 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 added.

The report said the adulteration cannot be caught because Chinese companies have “designed" the sugar syrup so that it can pass the Indian laboratory tests.

Narain described the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in an editorial in Down To Earth magazine as “completely missing in action—it is difficult to say whether it is clueless or complicit". Narain is the editor of the magazine.

The companies refuted the allegations. Patanjali said that it makes 100% natural honey, which tested pure on more than 100 standards laid down by FSSAI for honey.

“It...seems to be an international marketing design to promote German technology and machines, which cost crores of rupees. Besides, it is an attempt to lower the market share of Indian honey in international trade," said Acharya Balkrishna, managing director, Patanjali Ayurved.

An Emami spokesperson said: “Emami as a responsible organization and ensures that its Zandu Pure Honey conforms and adheres to all the protocols and quality norms and standards laid down by the government of India and its authorized entities such as FSSAI."

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.

It said Dabur is the only company in India to have an NMR testing equipment in its own laboratory, which is used to regularly test its honey sold in India.

Apis Himalya declined to comment immediately on the matter.

For the CSE report, samples were first tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food at the National Dairy Development Board in Gujarat.

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