Bee aware: do you know what is in that cheap jar of honey? | Supermarkets

British beekeepers are calling for a requirement on supermarkets and different retailers to label cheap honey imports from China and different nations with the nation of origin after claims that half of the global supply is bulked out with sugar syrup.

The UK is the world’s largest importer of Chinese language honey, which might be one sixth of the worth of the honey produced by bees in Britain. Grocery store own-label honey from China might be purchased for as little as 69p a jar. Supermarkets say each jar of honey is “100% pure” and might be traced again to the beekeeper, however there is no requirement to establish the international locations of origin of honey blended from multiple nation. The European Union is now contemplating new guidelines to enhance shopper info for honey and make sure the nation of origin is clearly recognized on the jar.

Lynne Ingram, chair of the Honey Authenticity Community UK, a gaggle of beekeepers campaigning for higher info for customers, stated the federal government ought to implement its personal powerful new guidelines to make sure higher transparency.

“The patron wants to have the ability to make an knowledgeable alternative about what they’re shopping for, and it’s not possible for them for the time being,” stated Ingram, who is additionally the grasp beekeeper at Wesley Cottage Bees, close to Bridgewater in Somerset. “The present labelling guidelines are hiding what persons are consuming.”


Gross sales of honey rose to a document excessive final yr and it has overtaken jam in current years to change into the UK’s hottest unfold. Shoppers purchased 30,000 tonnes of honey in 2020 value £130m, in line with figures from the information and analysis firm Kantar.

A couple of third of the UK’s honey imports come from China, however it virtually by no means seems on the label of grocery store jars because the nation of origin. The UK additionally imports important quantities of cheap honey from India, Ukraine and Vietnam.

Sainsbury’s So Natural Clear Honey (340g) prices £3.15, however the grocery store didn’t reply to questions on the nation of origin final week. It stated its honey “might be traced again to the beekeeper”. The label says the product is a “mix of non-EU honeys”.

Dale Gibson, owner of Bermondsey Street Bees, which has beehives around London.
Dale Gibson, proprietor of Bermondsey Avenue Bees, which has beehives round London. {Photograph}: Bermondsey Avenue Bees

The foreign-produced honeys are the most cost effective on the grocery store cabinets. Whereas a jar of Tesco Stockwell clear honey (340g) prices simply 69p, a jar of Tesco Most interesting English Set Honey prices £4.50. Grocery store sources stated final week the Stockwell honey was a mix of honeys from China and Vietnam.

Asda stated its Runny Honey (340g) costing £1.49 was additionally a mix of Chinese language and Vietnamese honey and was “absolutely traceable again to the beekeeper”.

Chinese language honey dominates the worldwide market however is controversial as a result of beekeepers in different international locations say laboratory assessments counsel some of the worldwide provide is focused by fraudsters who dilute it with cheaper sugar syrup.

In China, the authorities have been warned of the menace. The Institute of Apicultural Analysis in Beijing acknowledged in a analysis paper in March final yr: “With a purpose to search larger earnings, high-quality honey is subjected to sugar adulteration by the addition of cheaper sweeteners.”

Factories in China promote sugar syrup on the market to be combined with honey, which it is claimed in advertising and marketing materials can beat the most typical assessments utilized by meals security watchdogs. There was authorized motion in america over claims that imports of cheap adulterated honey are pushing beekeepers to monetary collapse.

Final yr, Mitchell Weinberg, a New York-based meals fraud investigator, commissioned QSI, a number one German laboratory, to check 9 jars of UK grocery store own-brand honey. Eight of the 9 samples examined indicated adulteration, however the Meals Requirements Company (FSA) says extra work is required to make sure that such assessments might be relied on.

It advises buying and selling requirements officers to undertake a “weight of proof” method in which additionally they think about provide chain audits and information in addition to check outcomes.

Dale Gibson, co-founder of Bermondsey Avenue Bees in London, which has beehives in and across the capital, together with Lambeth Palace and rooftops close to Tower Hill, stated the FSA and buying and selling requirements officers wanted to take more practical motion towards the menace from the meals fraudsters. “They’ve didn’t correctly police the laws,” he stated.

Sian Edmunds, a companion on the authorized agency Burges Salmon, gives regulatory recommendation on the meals provide chain. She stated that any new adjustments in European meals labelling legal guidelines wouldn’t robotically apply in the UK, which would wish to introduce its personal laws.


Any measure to enhance transparency in the meals chain could be welcomed, however would have to be assessed in session with meals companies on how simply it may very well be applied. She added: “Something that improves the authenticity and traceability of meals must be factor, however you need to steadiness it with practicality. The trade might argue that a brand new labelling legislation is likely to be difficult for blended honey from a number of totally different international locations.”

Rick Mumford, head of science, proof and analysis on the FSA, stated the meals watchdog was working with different authorities our bodies and trade specialists to deal with some of the complexities round honey authenticity testing. He stated: “Our work is in search of to place in place the best enforcement instruments and steerage for detecting honey fraud so that shoppers can have belief in the honey they purchase.”

A authorities spokesperson stated: “It is important shoppers have belief in the meals they eat, and meals labelling must be correct and never deceptive in any manner. We’re working with companions to know the rising scientific proof on honey testing to make sure all honey might be pretty and precisely examined for contents and origin.”

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