Lots of locally available honey too sweet to be good

Consumers of honey should be more circumspect about locally available products by determining the source of the product they buy, Mike Miles of the South African Bee Industry Organisation (Sabio) has said.

His warning follows the revelation that most types of honey available on local shelves have been adulterated, meaning the sugar content is higher than the internationally acceptable standard of 7% or less.

However, with local supply only providing about 2000 tonnes per annum but with demand sitting at 5000, adulterated product has been allowed to flood South African markets - mainly because of under-regulation.

According to reports, the reason for supply not being able to keep pace with demand is the rising global trend of turning to honey as a natural antidote for allergies and other ills.

But using honey for its precautionary medical properties is also why Sabia is imploring consumers to establish the source of their honey, with the emphasis on local being better for local health.

In an article about honey’s bitter-sweet story, journalist Sharon Chetty writes that this is because “the traces of pollen from the flowers on which bees forage could help some of us counter seasonal allergies by desensitising us to local pollens”.

Unfortunately it’s very hard to tell where honey originates because in South Africa producers don’t have to disclose such information.

It has led to Sabio lobbying Parliament to form an Apicultural Advisory Council.

In the absence of such quality control measures, consumers have been asked to try to buy honey direct from the source, such as at fresh produce markets.

Apart from not having a regulatory body for the honey industry, South Africa’s scientific fraternity also doesn’t have the necessary capacity to test shelf honey for sugar levels, known as C4 verification.

Nevertheless, eight samples of locally available honey sent off in 2017 for C4 testing came back with six of the samples flagged for having been adulterated with sugar content exceeding the international limit of 7%.

And while it seems easy for adulterated imports to flood local markets, consumers have been warned that if honey is too sweet it’s probably bad for you.

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