Investigation finds that almost half of honey imported into the EU is “adulterated”

At the moment, the EU doesn’t produce enough honey to meet demand. This means that around 40% of honey sold in the EU comes from elsewhere. These imports come mainly from China (80 000 tonnes, or 39% of total extra-EU honey imports), followed by Ukraine, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile. 

However, a recent investigation led by the European Commission found that nearly half of the honey imported into the EU is believed to be fraudulent and has other syrups added to them. 

The analysis was put together by the Commission, alongside 18 EU national authorities that are part of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), and the EU Food Fraud Network. 

For the investigation, the JRC took 320 random samples of honey between November 2021 and 2022. After analysing the samples, it was concluded that 46% had been diluted. 

The highest number of suspicious products was found in China, with 74% of honey believed to be tampered with originating from there. The country with the highest proportion of suspicious honey products was Turkey, with 93% of the samples being flagged. 

The agency stated that it had a “strong suspicion that a large part of the honey imported from non-EU countries and found suspicious by the JRC of being adulterated remains present and undetected on the EU market”. 

According to the EU’s Honey Directive, honey can’t have ingredients added to it. When other ingredients are added to it like water or cheaper sugar syrups, it’s considered adulteration. 

Although this doesn’t pose a high risk to consumers in terms of health, it does threaten fair competition and has a negative impact on EU producers, as competitors use cheaper ingredients to increase the volume of their products. 

In the EU, the average cost of imported honey in 2021 was €2.32 per kilogram. However, the average cost of rice sugar syrups at the same time was much lower at €0.40 per kilogram. 

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