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Proving Honey is Honey

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I have just had a phone call from a verifier asking a general question “How do we prove that there is 100% Honey in the jar labeled Honey”? 

 

I don’t seem to be looking in the right places to find a quick answer.

 Has anyone had to provide proof that what they have in the drum is honey? I understand there are export requirements for moisture content and C4’s, amongst other things but anything specific to prove it’s substance derived from nectar from floral sources or dew. As a beekeeper has anyone been asked to prove that what they have in the jar is honey if that is what is on the label,  if so what tests did you undertake?

I don’t know what the price of golden syrup is these days but could someone buy this in bulk and call it honey, illegal I know but do it never the less?

 

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10 hours ago, Oma said:

I have just had a phone call from a verifier asking a general question “How do we prove that there is 100% Honey in the jar labeled Honey”? 

 

I don’t seem to be looking in the right places to find a quick answer.

 Has anyone had to provide proof that what they have in the drum is honey? I understand there are export requirements for moisture content and C4’s, amongst other things but anything specific to prove it’s substance derived from nectar from floral sources or dew. As a beekeeper has anyone been asked to prove that what they have in the jar is honey if that is what is on the label,  if so what tests did you undertake?

I don’t know what the price of golden syrup is these days but could someone buy this in bulk and call it honey, illegal I know but do it never the less?

 

 I'll let beekeepers/producers respond to your query about whether they are getting asked the same question but I can give you an idea about what we get asked for as a lab. The majority of these "is this really honey" questions are tied in with adulteration using synthetic sugars. Historically this was with C4 syrups like high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar but now C3 syrups are being used to adulterate honey e.g. beet syrup or rice syrup. Honeys with these syrups added will pass the C4 sugar test. For this reason, there are more tests emerging that claim to test for specific sugars such as the SM-B method (for beet sugar) and SM-R method (for rice sugar) that have emerged out of China. There are also tools like NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) being used to identify "foreign sugar" markers in honey. This was the test used in the Capilano 'fake honey' news last year. Basically, it's complicated, and all these tests are so new it's hard to say how well they work particularly for manuka honey. To answer the verifier that's been in contact with you, the answer would be for wherever/whoever they are exporting/selling to and what tests they require as proof. 

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11 hours ago, Oma said:

I have just had a phone call from a verifier asking a general question “How do we prove that there is 100% Honey in the jar labeled Honey”? 

 

I don’t seem to be looking in the right places to find a quick answer.

 Has anyone had to provide proof that what they have in the drum is honey? I understand there are export requirements for moisture content and C4’s, amongst other things but anything specific to prove it’s substance derived from nectar from floral sources or dew. As a beekeeper has anyone been asked to prove that what they have in the jar is honey if that is what is on the label,  if so what tests did you undertake?

I don’t know what the price of golden syrup is these days but could someone buy this in bulk and call it honey, illegal I know but do it never the less?

 

My advice Oma

You say "Look Buddy, I live and keep my Bees in Turangi New Zealand, I process my Honey personally on my own property, I assure you it is real Honey,  take it or leave it".

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Kate R said:

 To answer the verifier that's been in contact with you, the answer would be for wherever/whoever they are exporting/selling to and what tests they require as proof. 

 

That. The question for your verifier would have to be adulterated with what? 

 

A battery of tests could be run to show it has not been adulterated with the main suspects such C4. However it cannot be tested for every last thing that could have possibly adulterated it, so end of day, you cannot prove your honey is pure. IMHO.

 

Would have liked to be a fly on the wall in Capillano board room. "They want to test for C4. Hey i know, let's add C3. Genius!!" 

Edited by Alastair
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1 minute ago, Alastair said:

 

That. The question for your verifier would have to be adulterated with what? 

 

A battery of tests could be run to show it has not been adulterated with the main suspects such C4. However it cannot be tested for every last thing that could have possibly adulterated it, so end of day, you cannot prove your honey is pure. IMHO.

 

Agree. That's the main issue that there aren't any tests currently that say absolutely, with confidence, that a honey is "pure"/not adulterated. There are various things in the pipeline both here and internationally but it doesn't help with honey that is currently being exported. 

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Thanks so much for your answers everyone luckily I have not been asked to have to prove my honey is honey BUT this is a question circulating amongst verifiers and they are searching for answers amongst the contacts they have.

My contact kept asking how does a refractor work for honey and how much would one cost, my understanding is that refractors give you the moisture / sugars ratio rather than identify sugar source as I know my neighbour uses one in his vineyard to identify when to harvest his grapes. 

I will send a link to our collective answers and he will be able to inform other verifiers around the country before anyone gets grief over this question.

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6 minutes ago, Oma said:

My contact kept asking how does a refractor work for honey and how much would one cost, my understanding is that refractors give you the moisture / sugars ratio rather than identify sugar source as I know my neighbour uses one in his vineyard to identify when to harvest his grapes. 

That's right - you'd use a refractometer in honey to measure the moisture and Brix. Identifying the sugar source or types of sugar you'd be looking at any number of tests such as: C4 Sugar test and variations, Sugar Profile, NMR, SM-B, SM-R, SM-X,... the list goes on. 

 

6 minutes ago, Oma said:

I will send a link to our collective answers and he will be able to inform other verifiers around the country before anyone gets grief over this question.

We've got these two resources that you might find helpful to explain some of the sugar issues, please feel free to use and distribute as you please. Not trying to push any of our services here.. just genuinely happy to share a bit of knowledge so hopefully you find this useful! 

C4 sugar and industry info - click link at bottom of page

NMR info - click link at bottom of page

 

 

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1 hour ago, Philbee said:

My advice Oma

You say "Look Buddy, I live and keep my Bees in Turangi New Zealand, I process my Honey personally on my own property, I assure you it is real Honey,  take it or leave it".

 

Love this reply !

and tell them to feel free to test it for whatever they want as long as it comes out of their back pocket not yours !

wont be long before there’s nothing left in a drum of honey as profit or even cost covering for the beekeeper.

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2 minutes ago, frazzledfozzle said:

 

Love this reply !

and tell them to feel free to test it for whatever they want as long as it comes out of their back pocket not yours !

wont be long before there’s nothing left in a drum of honey as profit or even cost covering for the beekeeper.

Exactly Frazzol

In fact my post is polite compared to what Id actually tell them

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Posted (edited)

Been invoiced for a bunch of extracting costs including a crap load of tests. Haven't pocketed a cent from honey sales yet, just hoping the cost of transferring the honey from a beehive to a jar, will be less than what i get for the honey.

 

I remember a time when we threw boxes on a truck, took them to the shed, and extracted it. We then packed it into jars, which were labelled as whatever floral type we thought it probably was. No adulteration, no tests, nobody died.

Edited by Alastair
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Being dragged down yet again by the scum.

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5 hours ago, Alastair said:

Been invoiced for a bunch of extracting costs including a crap load of tests. Haven't pocketed a cent from honey sales yet, just hoping the cost of transferring the honey from a beehive to a jar, will be less than what i get for the honey.

 

I remember a time when we threw boxes on a truck, took them to the shed, and extracted it. We then packed it into jars, which were labelled as whatever floral type we thought it probably was. No adulteration, no tests, nobody died.

not that you knew of......

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20 hours ago, Oma said:

I have just had a phone call from a verifier asking a general question “How do we prove that there is 100% Honey in the jar labeled Honey”? 

Thinking about this I think this issue is outside the verifier's "terms of reference"  He's there to approve food safety and hygiene isn't he ? 

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He's probably there to satisfy whatever requirements the purchaser wants satisfied. Which may vary from one purchasing country to another.

 

One good thing, if proof of non adulteration becomes the norm, it will draw a line between genuine honey and fake honey. Hopefully.

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2 minutes ago, Alastair said:

He's probably there to satisfy whatever requirements the purchaser wants satisfied. Which may vary from one purchasing country to another.

 

One good thing, if proof of non adulteration becomes the norm, it will draw a line between genuine honey and fake honey. Hopefully.

I thought @Oma was going through the extracting packing registration process......

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Oh, i didn't get that from the post. If so then yes, he should be about food safety and hygeine as you say. 

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22 hours ago, Oma said:

I have just had a phone call from a verifier asking a general question “How do we prove that there is 100% Honey in the jar labeled Honey”? 

 

I don’t seem to be looking in the right places to find a quick answer.

 Has anyone had to provide proof that what they have in the drum is honey? I understand there are export requirements for moisture content and C4’s, amongst other things but anything specific to prove it’s substance derived from nectar from floral sources or dew. As a beekeeper has anyone been asked to prove that what they have in the jar is honey if that is what is on the label,  if so what tests did you undertake?

I don’t know what the price of golden syrup is these days but could someone buy this in bulk and call it honey, illegal I know but do it never the less?

 

Harvest declaration? 

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Thanks again for your thoughts. I have been thru the verification process for extraction and packaging and should not be revisited for another year at least so the question does not apply to me personally at this time.

 The council verifier just phoned out of the blue explaining that this question was one that is being debated amongst Council verifiers around the country and he was looking beyond the MPI standards for the answer to the question, how do you prove honey is honey?

The MPI Standards do not provide the answer or we would all be able to point our verifiers to the relevant bits of paper we’ve paid $$$$ for.  I think the debate goes like this: Councils Verify premises for honey processing and packaging and the are putting their name on the certificate and ? carry the liability that the premises they have verified are indeed processing and packaging honey..... but wait a minute can I be sure that’s honey?

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Oma said:

. but wait a minute can I be sure that’s honey?

This is the sort of burdgeoning beaurocratic mentality that I'm so pleased to leave behind by lapsing my building licence. The place is going to the dogs. Shoelaces will be banned soon so no-one trips over them. Oh yes and while I'm at it, has anyone else been dealing with IRD this week ?  Don't even think about it .

Edited by yesbut
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9 hours ago, Oma said:

 

The MPI Standards do not provide the answer or we would all be able to point our verifiers to the relevant bits of paper we’ve paid $$$$ for.  I think the debate goes like this: Councils Verify premises for honey processing and packaging and the are putting their name on the certificate and ? carry the liability that the premises they have verified are indeed processing and packaging honey..... but wait a minute can I be sure that’s honey?

 

They are verifying the premises not the product.

its not their job to verify the product surely ?

As long as the building is fit for purpose their job is done surely?

 

i can see another sticky finger in the pie which has no business being there.

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17 hours ago, yesbut said:

This is the sort of burdgeoning beaurocratic mentality that I'm so pleased to leave behind by lapsing my building licence. The place is going to the dogs. Shoelaces will be banned soon so no-one trips over them. Oh yes and while I'm at it, has anyone else been dealing with IRD this week ?  Don't even think about it .

I must admit when I posted the photos of Don up the tree I did wonder if we might get a phone call or a visit .

But at this stage you are still allowed to do dodgy stuff in the privacy of your own back yard .

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Had a nice response so sharing it to let you all know your replies were helpful.     
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Hi Jose
Sorry about the radio silence. Really enjoyed reading the replies especially the 'Look Buddy..' response and I agree. I think that this what I did but question my decision when someone else asked 'well how do you know?'   
I have found that there is no more down to earth than bee keepers.
The Food Act is about safety but also 'suitability' and this brings in the Food Standards so it is now about the final product and is now within the terms of reference.

I think that the scale of the operation and confidence in the production steps that may should have some influence on the level of evidence. The use of the refractor to verify the moisture content is a cheap method for one aspect of compliance. The issue adulteration of the product is possibly next level and Food Safety Officer investigation work if there is suspicion from somewhere.

I am attending some training soon with Assure quality and I will keep these questions for them.

Thanks for you help.   

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