New Method Helps Detect Honey Adulteration More Efficiently

Science

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The researchers of Semmelweis University and the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Science have developed a new lab method which makes it possible to verify manipulations of honey related to heating, origin, or other types of adulteration more accurately.

Honey is among the most adulterated foods in the world, the researchers note. Some manufacturers either dilute genuine honey with syrups derived from plants or directly feed bees with them in the collection period. Honey is also frequently heated to facilitate processing/packaging, often unknown to consumers. Heating above a certain temperature range may worsen the quality of honey and modify its composition, thus can be regarded as adulteration.

"Our goal was to ultimately be able to distinguish between honey types and between genuine and adulterated honey", says Zsanett Bodor, college senior lecturer at the Department of Dietetics and Nutritional Sciences at Semmelweis University, first author of the study.

In their study, the researchers compared two methods; near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and electronic tongue (ET), separately and in combination, to see their performance in detecting heat treatment of honey. 

ET and NIRS have been able to discriminate the majority of heated samples from the controls; their combination proved to be the most efficient (98%-100% accuracy). 

When testing for added sugar syrups, the electronic tongue (ET) easily detected a sugar syrup concentration of 10%, while near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was able to separate fake honey from authentic honey in nearly every case, especially at sugar syrup concentrations of 5% and 10%.

These two ways of detecting adulteration also have several benefits compared to reference analytical methods determining physicochemical properties, as ET and NIRS are more rapid, need a smaller amount of reagents, and are less laborious.

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