Fresh claims of fake honey have emerged in a scientific study allegedly showing severe adulteration problems in the Australian honey industry.
But unlike the recent report showing problems with Chinese honey marketed by Capilano under its Allowrie brand, the latest study puts Australian honey generally in the firing line.
Largely based on work by Chinese born Macquarie University Ph.D environmental science student, Miss Xiaoteng Zhou, the new study looked at 100 different honeys from around the world, 95 of which were said to be “commercial honey” samples.
(Five of the other samples were said to be raw or unprocessed honeys acquired from hobby beekeepers in Sydney and Calliope near Gladstone in Queensland)
Using various criteria, some 26 of the 95 commercial honey samples were found to show evidence of adulteration, most likely addition of sugar syrup.
But most alarmingly, from an Australian perspective, some 38 of the 100 samples were locally produced, and 7 of these, or 18% were said to have tested positive for adulteration.
Indeed the ABC headlined its news report “Almost 20 per cent of Australian honey samples found to not be pure”.
Other news outlets given advance copies of the study, including Fairfax newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald, ran similar disturbing headlines, and made sensational claims.
The SMH for example, opened with the claim the study had found one in five of the Australian honey samples were fake honey.
Of course the study found no such thing. Mostly it found evidence to suggest that sugar syrups could have been either fed to the bees or added to the honey.
However many media outlets have ignored the facts, and reported more sensational claims based on the study.
Australian honey industry representatives are, unsurprisingly, appalled both by the reports, and the strong suggestion in many quarters of malpractice amongst Australian commercial honey packers.
However evidence is mounting that not only is the study has some significant errors and inaccuracies.
Worst of all, it is becoming increasingly clear at least some of the research scientists involved were pre-disposed to the surprising view that the Australian honey industry is riddled with fraud.
The study, titled Authenticity and geographic origin of global honeys determined using carbon isotope ratios and trace elements, was published at Nature.Com in its Scientific Reports section on the 2nd of October.
Regrettably, the published study fails to acknowledge that feeding bees sugar in winter, to prevent them starving, may affect the results of C4 adulteration tests.
(Although best practice bee-keeping avoids feeding sugar at any other time, and tries to avoid harvesting any honey likely to have incorporated the sugar).
Equally regrettable, is that the method by which the samples of honey were chosen for testing is not disclosed.
It appears at least some of them may have been donated, and some purchased at suburban or regional outdoor markets. (Moreover 2 of the raw honey samples tested were produced by native bees rather than the Apis Mellifare or Italian bees used in almost all commercial honey production.)
Similarly, no details are provided about either the brands involved, or the honey varieties.
Nevertheless all the honeys apart from the raw or unprocessed honeys are described as commercial.
And almost all of the so-called Australian honeys (at least 2 had labels stating the honey was a blend of local and imported honey) were classified as being produced in a specific Australian state.
So according to, the ABC report, some 23% of the Tasmanian honey samples tested were found to be adulterated and 29% of the Victorian honeys tested were found to be fake”.
In actual numerical terms, the study found that 2 of the 9 Tasmanian honey samples failed some of the tests, as did 2 of the 7 Victorian samples tested.
No explanation is given for why Victorian and Tasmanian honeys were so dramatically over-represented in the testing, given that Queensland and NSW are the two largest honey producing states in Australia.
It appears, nevertheless, that the authors have little familiarity with the Australian honey industry.
The study happily asserts that Australia is the fourth largest-honey ex[orted in the world. But the data on which that is based was produced in 2001. As anyone with even the slightest familiarity with the Australian honey industry would be aware, the industry has been a major importer, not exporter, for some years, (and particularly importer of Chinese honey)
Certainly, there are disturbing indications, both in the televised reports, and in the newspapers, not just that the authors are relatively ignorant of the Australian honey industry, but that the lead author, in particular, was pre-disposed to find that many locally-produced Australian honeys are adulterated.
Indeed comments reported by Miss Zhou to the ABC included both comments that were factually incorrect and comments showing that she is surprisingly credulous of unscientific allegations published on Facebook.
The ABC’s online report says Mz Zhou reveals that she decided to test Australian honey after, what she described as the 2016 fining of a honey company for selling fake honey.
Perhaps she meant 2014, when a retailer and importer of fake honey from Turkey was fined $30,000 by the ACCC. The fine was imposed after the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council sent samples for testing in a German laboratory.
But her further quoted comments seem to show that she has conflated that incident with claims made by local bee activist, Simon Mulvany, on Facebook
“Two years ago, in 2016, a commercial honey secret was revealed on Facebook and the honey sold in the supermarket might be toxic,” she said.
“It was claimed to be an Australia product but it was actually imported from overseas.
“These samples were analysed in Germany labs, so we were thinking, ‘Can we do the analysis in Sydney’, then we designed this project and we collected samples and developed this method.”
Mulvany’s Facebook claims about Capilano’s honey resulted in him being sued for defamation, an action which is still continuing in the Australian courts.
For more information go to: