Explosion of adulteration and “grecization” in honey

Explosion of adulteration and “grecization” in honey

Massive imports from China and mixing with rice substitutes or starch syrups, even toxic dyes – With modern technology, systems change the characteristics of products.

Honey remains popular – especially among those who follow a healthy diet – precisely because it is not an industrial product. To have honey, however, you need apiaries, beekeepers, but also a search for areas where production can take place, which entails additional costs.

At the same time, the production of honey in our country does not cover the demand. It is this void in the internal market that the “producers” try to fill by succumbing to the double temptation of adulteration and the “grecization” of imported honey, degrading the product which reaches the consumer but also harming domestic beekeeping.

Counterfeit champions

The honey that consumers find on the shelves is most often advertised as a “Greek product”, with the ingredients listed on the back of the package. But when it comes to the product of small producers, this… luxury does not exist and the quality is left to the solvency of the beekeeper. In practice, however, honey is among the 10 most adulterated foods. Mixing is done with rice substitutes or starch syrups.

As reported by Chrysoula Tananaki, associate professor at the Beekeeping Laboratory of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, “there is adulterated honey that contains quantities of high fructose syrup and to which flavor and flavor are also added. color”. “Two years ago, we found a caramel color, which is toxic,” hastens to add Vassilis Alichos, secretary of the Achaia Beekeeping Association.

For his part, Giorgos Lehouritis, president of the Consumer Institute, points out that there are “modern technology systems that alter the characteristics of products, while counterfeiting is so great that the world cannot protect itself”.

During the last three years 2020-2022, laboratory tests of 548 honey samples, which were provided by various authorities, were carried out in the laboratories of the General Directorate of General Chemistry of the State. Of these, 110 were labeled “abnormal” for various parameters and 14 of the “abnormal” honey samples were found to be adulterated.

During the period 2019-2022, EFET carried out 165 checks and received 387 samples for examination, of which 325 samples were part of quality and counterfeiting programs and the remaining 62 were taken as part of extraordinary checks at the following complaints from the competent authorities of the Member States of the European Commission. In these, five cases of honey adulterated with exogenous sugars were identified.

At the same time, seven processing, standardization and marketing companies were investigated by the EFET, three of which were considered, based on the results of the analyses, to be suspected of fraud or complicity in fraud. The phenomenon of adulteration of honey is of course not only Greek. According to a survey by the European Union, of the 320 samples checked by the competent authorities of the participating countries, 147 (46%) were found to be suspicious.

Imports of questionable quality

As Vassilis Alichos explains, “honey produced within the European Union is not enough, which is why imports are made from third countries”. The country from which the largest amount of honey is imported into Greece is China. According to the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, during the period 2020-2023, a total of 72 imports of honey from China were made, with a total value of 2,679,951 euros and a net mass of 1,991,174 kg, via the 3rd Import Customs of Piraeus and the 1st Import-Export Customs of Thessaloniki.

The problem with the massive imports of honey from the Asian country is that the quality of the product cannot be certified in advance and with certainty. Indeed, at European level, it is estimated that 74% of the quantities imported from China are suspected of counterfeiting.

The situation is further complicated by the impossibility of registering the exact origin of the quantities imported, a fact which is exploited by those who proceed to “Hellenization”. As the president of the Federation of Beekeeping Associations of Greece, Anastasios Pontikis, explains, “honey imported from China passes through membranes and thus eliminates pollen grains that can ‘betray’ its origin”.

Counterfeit products on supermarket shelves too

All of the above, as expected, has caused concern among consumers, as it is now impossible to know for sure if what they are buying is really…honey. As Stratis Taxidis, agronomist of the Beekeeping Cooperative of Lesbos points out, cases of counterfeiting have even been observed on the shelves of supermarket chains, “the consumer being misled, since he is paying for something that is not in accordance with the laws of our country”. “.

For his part, Andreas Bekas, an agricultural technologist, argues that “the only way for the consumer to avoid the pitfalls is to source honey from producers he knows personally and trusts”. However, Secretary General of Trade and Consumer Protection Sotiris Anagnostopoulos has a different opinion: “The consumer should be doubly careful when buying honey in bulk. It is only for packaged products that we can have a clear picture of where they came from.”

Finally, from the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food, they point out that the National Beekeeping Registry and the Individual Beekeeping Digital Identity were created to deal with the phenomena of counterfeit honey. An additional tool is the e-honey digital service, which captures the product’s journey through the production chain step by step, as part of the application of a traceability system for bee derivatives.

Printable version “TA NEA”

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