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‘Chinese sugar’ found in Indian honey, Dabur, Patanjali call CSE report ‘bid to malign’ brands

Brands have denied the allegations of selling adulterated honey but CSE research team says sugar syrups are designed to pass India's food regulatory standards.

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New Delhi: Major Indian brands including Dabur, Patanjali and Zandu are selling honey adulterated with a modified sugar from China, which can bypass some of the basic tests used to detect adulterated honey, researchers from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have alleged.

Responding to these allegations, spokespersons from Dabur, Patanjali and Zandu denied that their honey products were adulterated and pointed out that they meet regulatory requirements laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

According to CSE director general Sunita Narain, the organisation launched an investigation when beekeepers in North India reported reduced profits despite a spike in honey sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a food fraud more nefarious and more sophisticated than what we found in our 2003 and 2006 investigations into soft drinks; more damaging to our health than perhaps anything that we have found till now — keeping in mind the fact that we are still fighting against a killer COVID-19 pandemic with our backs to the wall,” Narain said in a statement Wednesday.

The CSE study found that almost all brands of honey being sold in the Indian market are adulterated with sugar syrup.

“This is immensely worrying, as it will further compromise health in the troubled times of Covid-19. We know that households today are consuming more honey because of its intrinsic goodness — antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties,” Narain said.

“Our research has found that most of the honey sold in the market is adulterated with sugar syrup. Therefore, instead of honey, people are eating more sugar, which will add to the risk of Covid-19.

“Sugar ingestion is directly linked to obesity, and obese people are more vulnerable to life-threatening infections,” added Narain.

According to the CSE, the honey adulteration business has evolved to bypass existing tests. Initially, sugars from corn, sugarcane, rice and beetroot used to be added to honey to increase sweetness. Such adulteration is detected by what are known as C3 and C4 tests.

The new modified ‘Chinese sugar’, however, can only be detected by a test called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). NMR tests have very recently been made mandatory in India for honey that is meant for export.

Researchers at the CSE selected 13 top and smaller brands of processed and raw honey being sold in India. Samples from these were tested at the Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF) at the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Gujarat.

Almost all, except Apis Himalaya, passed the basic tests of purity, the CSE said.

However, when the same brands were tested using NMR, which was conducted by a specialised laboratory in Germany, most brands failed. Of the 13 tested, only three brands passed the NMR test.

“It shows how the business of adulteration has evolved so that it can pass the stipulated tests in India,” said Amit Khurana, programme director of CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins team.

“Our concern is not just that the honey we eat is adulterated, but that this adulteration is difficult to catch. In fact, we have found that the sugar syrups are designed so that they can go undetected,” Khurana added.

Saffola, MarkfedSohna and Nature’s Nectar were the brands that passed all tests.

Also read: Greater quality checks soon on milk, edible oil, honey, meat & poultry, says FSSAI new CEO

Brands deny allegations

In an email statement to ThePrint, Dabur shared an independent test report of Dabur Honey from a lab in Germany, which shows that their product passes the NMR test.

“The recent reports seem motivated and aimed at maligning our brand. We assure our consumers that Dabur Honey is 100% Pure. It is 100% indigenous, collected naturally from Indian sources and packed with no added sugar or other adulterants,” the spokesperson said.

“Further, Dabur is the only company in India to have NMR testing equipment in our own laboratory, and the same is used to regularly test our Honey being sold in the Indian market. This is to ensure that Dabur Honey is 100% Pure without any adulteration,” the statement added.

Acharya Balkrishna, managing director of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, called the report “an attempt to lower the market share of Indian honey in international trade”.

In a statement emailed to ThePrint, he said: “It seems to be a plot to defame Indian natural honey industry and manufacturers in a bid to promote processed honey. It further seems to be an international marketing designed to promote German technology and machines which cost crores of rupees.”

Emami, which produces Zandu Pure Honey, also claimed its product adheres to all protocols and standards. “Emami, as a responsible organization, ensures that it’s Zandu Pure Honey conforms and adheres to all the protocols and quality norms/standards laid down by the Government of India and its authorised entities such as FSSAI,” the company said in its statement sent to ThePrint.

According to data from the National Bee Board, which functions under the Department of Agriculture, the country’s total honey production reported in 2017-2018 was 1.05 lakh metric tonnes.

Also read: From McDonald’s to Patanjali, an IAS officer explains how FSSAI is making food safer

Code word, ‘disguise’ help adulterants clear FSSAI, customs

In the past year, the FSSAI notified importers and state food commissioners that sugar syrups like golden syrup, invert sugar syrup and rice syrup imported into the country were being used for adulteration of honey.

However, Chinese companies mostly export the syrup as fructose to India through trade portals such as Alibaba, CSE researchers said. The team had procured a sample of the syrup from a Chinese company during its investigations. According to Narain, the product was disguised as “paint pigment” to clear customs.

The CSE team also found that a factory to manufacture this ‘Chinese syrup’ was set up in Jaspur, Uttarakhand. According to Narain, CSE researchers used code word “all pass” (for the syrup) to procure a sample from Jaspur.

“What was shocking to find is that adulterated samples with 25 per cent and 50 per cent sugar syrup passed the test of purity. In this way, we confirmed that sugar syrups exist that can bypass the 2020 FSSAI standard for honey,” said Khurana, CSE’s programme director of Food Safety and Toxins.

Also read: These are the things Indians have been spending their money on during the pandemic


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  1. It was proved cridtal clear many of those leading brands of honey adultrated. Beyond that chinese liquid sugar mfg unit installed in Utarakand where Apis Honey being manufactured. What action the Indian food adultration dept has taken so far? Any raids to seize that adultration product? Nothing. All those officials corrupted, bribed, hell respondible to the damages of the health. That shows the right UPI govt too involved in this scam, since Utarakand is the originstion of Aryans.

  2. If FSSAI has found out that these syrups from China is being used then why not keep a check on it. I am in a dilemma now whether to trust even the brands mentioned as safe by FSSAI now.
    These adultery done by big brands should be exposed and should be printed on the front page of newspapers so that everyone nows.

  3. Why do investigating agencies wake up after the damage is done. This malpractice was happening for quite some time. Also will you revoke the licenses of these companies. Well doubt that will ever happen
    Atleast do us one favour create consumer awareness about all the products that failed the test rather than talking about three products that passed the test.

  4. There could be a possibility of spurious honey being sold in the names of these brands. Just a week ago police had raided premises where they were producing Protein powders using malto dextrin, chemicals and flavouring agents. The police and intelligence agencies should hunt for such culprits.

  5. Indians are consuming many types of chineses and modified foods, becharey bhukhe bharatwassi.
    It is all government induced policy to give red carpet entry to outsiders in the name technology.

  6. FSSAI as a food safety agency is a joke, in a country where corruption is rampant how does any one expect FSSAI to be any different.
    Be very cautious of packaged products in India. All those working in any food industry reading this know very well the reality of FSSAI

  7. This is alarming report about Honey of reputed brands. How to have faith on domestic products. Food Deptt of that area must be booked and heavily penalysed.
    Cheating directly on human health is crime. Such makers have again prooved the quality norms of deshi products.
    Patanjali Dabur name has been put on stack. Quality on doubt of such names.

  8. People spent money for health, we can’t denied the report, govt should take care strict steps to promote organic from agriculturist in every village and foods safety instructions. But it’s true tests can be passed by bribe or political pressures.
    God blessed to all humanity.

  9. Team pls conduct a test on all products sold in online and offline because we are also earning and paying them we should get deadulterated product

  10. We think we having honey as an alternative to sugar,butalas why Chinese sugar even I honey , very wrongly done,it is cheating

  11. Guys, if you have tasted the actual honey, u can make it out. Get the honey directly from vendors, who take it out from honey bees in front of u. The real honey when put on tongue, generates some heat and if u hav tonsils, will cure it quickly


  13. After few days everyone will forget and will start using these fake products. Because it happens only in India. We are getting used by big fishes.

  14. Are these Government agencies which conducted the test?? Its a matter of concern as now the 3 brands which passed the test are available in selected stores only..

  15. Then ALL PACKED foods are ALDUTERED, who knows from wat ingredients they are made of. In this world honey is available in in more than hundred percent purest form. This is adulterated means then any product made and packed and sold god knows what it contains inside. The law is very loose in India nobody has filed PIL against branded companies selling their products since 50 years ago DABUR; ZANDU are the OLDEST of all. They have earned billions of rupees. People believe them purchase their products. Dear Indians make this company’s fall to ZERO.

  16. Then ALL PACKED foods are ALDUTERED, who knows from wat ingredients they are made of. In this world honey is available in in more than hundred percent purest form. This is adulterated means then any product made and packed and sold god knows what it contains inside. The law is very loose in India nobody has filed PIL against branded companies selling their products since 50 years ago DABUR; ZANDU are the OLDEST of all. They have earned billions of rupees. People believe them purchase their products. Dear Indians make this company’s fall to ZERO.

  17. Is there a law to sue these companies for cheating consumers. In US consumers can file class action suit against erring companies. I am a diabetes patient and consumes branded honey regularly to prevent glucose spike in blood. In fact It may have aggravated my illness affecting internal organs as what I regularly consumed was sugar and not honey. Can any one educate me on this?

  18. पैसा,पैसा,पैसा , पैसा क्या ऊपर ले कर जाओगे , जिस जनता से पैसा कमा रहे हो , उसी भोली भाली जनता को थोड़ी-बहुत लालच के लिए धोखा दे रहे हो ।

    “ये सुनकर हम सभी देशवाशीयो को बहुत दुख हुआ”

  19. If its true, and found guilty, they should not be spared, should be jailed immediately, and should be a lesson for others.

  20. The CSE report is true and authentic. Adulteration is rampant in all these brand’s honey available. As a food chemists and as a part of a study I have analysed and found this true.

  21. Saffola,Markfed sohna,Nature’s nectar are 3 brands that passed,clearly mentioned in this article. But fit tuber also did NMR test on zandu honey,and it passed.
    What should we believe,only farm honey procured in front of your eyes is trustworthy!

  22. I am sure this sis the case with most foods In India . The standards are all diluted during the time they are introduced as some Babu would have been a consultant for the companies and blessed the deviations when sent for approvals . Also they don’t update anything I am sure they will be some year 1800 standard left by the British

  23. Not necessary that major Indian brands have Chinese sugar syrup added to them. It may be property of Indian honey. Hence this report may not be reliable to blame these companies..

  24. Now it is utmost duty of govt and come forward for reality of such food served Comp must take drastic step and stop tempering with public health

  25. Please read the 14 th para
    “Saffola, MarkfedSohna and Nature’s Nectar” were the brands that passed all tests. are the 3 companies honey which passed the NMR tests.

  26. India is a very diverse country with a huge market potential plus it’s a huge corrupt country where anyone can play in the name of religion or caste. With very least stringent inspections anyone can pass the test.
    Therefore, I don’t see any good from any quarters, bhai sab kuch chalta hai…

  27. Honey from Saffola, MarkfedSohna and Nature’s Nector brands passed all the tests. So, you know where to look when you go shopping for honey next time.

  28. It’s a simple commonsense that India doesn’t have enough honey to supply our population. Just look at the quantity of honey being produced by all these companies. We don’t have that many beehives to capture honey. Our forests are all cut. So it’s a basic commonsense that all the honey being produced by these companies are adultrated

    • Indian rules of fssai are very strict. But compliance is definitely compromised by the food inspectors who are willing to be “adjusted” by lure of lucre. If found guilty the owners of the companies should be jailed summarily for a good ‘stretch’. Only then will they fall in line.

  29. Dabur is telling lies. I have Dabur honey in my kitchen purchased from csd canteen which has more than half of sugar crystals in the bottle. They are no better than other brands with sdultration.

  30. Great …”Print” THE GREAT……..But I don’t believe it’s true…because the companies they named …I think they are nationalistic company….& that’s why I also think that this is a paid campaign from multinational brands….
    ….I am a very simple person to comment on these & that’s why I claim that …..these are my personal views

    • Dear sir, if you don’t believe try it. The report is true. These Indian mentality to sabotage human life quality for the sake of few money has not left the business and political worlds, it was there when Indira had inspector raj, even now when the founder is selfless yogi or bhogi. These people should be hanged for causing human genocide disease in Covid times.

    • Have you ever tried dabur or patanjali honey? And seen them crystallising in winters?? I have. They have half the sugar and jaggery in them which any sane person would have known for years. It’s not anti national agenda… It’s common sense.
      Also the amount of honey sold by these brands is not possible since that high amount of honey is not produced naturally and rate at which the honey is sold is not possible if it was real 100% honey. Real honey far more expensive, I know because I buy from farmlands in Uttarakhand.

  31. Always had s lurking fear of Dabur adulterating honey. Let alone Patanjali who have been proved fraudsters in other products. Hope the public recognises the findings of CSE.

  32. Fit tuber actually did the NMR test for Zandu, and It passed the test. So I dont believe what written above is true.

    • Its proven again that companies cash from our poor regulatory requirements either in automobiles like cars or in food products. NMR test is mandatory for exports but not for the ones for domestic consumption…lol

  33. Fine these companies. Cancel their licenses. How dare they play with consumers health. I am never ever going to buy these brands again. Let there be a lesson for the upcoming companies in food production.

    • I used and disappointed, surely they are dumping sugar syrup, this is truly punishable , they are cheating, they are playing with valuable, human health.

  34. Ao which products passed the test shoukd be written here. Or u should procure that info as well if u dont hv. Otherwise whats the point of this article

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