“The majority of the honey we are worried about is that being sold cheaply and sold in big quantities. About 10 percent of samples sent off for analysis were doubtful”, said Paul Schweitzer, director of Cetam and a pollen specialist.
The problem with this honey is twofold: it is imported from China, but then it is relabeled in Eastern Europe to say “French origin” before it is sent off to France.
“These honeys that have undergone adulteration and have a dubious quality are essentially coming from Asia, namely China. This trend is also effecting acacia honeys from Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and even Poland”, said Henri Clément, a spokesperson for the French National Union of Beekeeping (Unaf).
However, specialists can determine the true origin of the product through the traces of pollen present in the honey.
China is now the world’s biggest manufacturer of honey, producing some 300,000 tons of it every year. According to Unaf, honey is increasingly imported now in France following a decrease in local production, primarily from the use of pesticides that has killed over 300,000 bee colonies per year.
“In 15 years, the production of honey in France has been halved, mainly because of pesticides, meanwhile the rate of importing has tripled”, added Clément.
In 1995, France produced 33,000 tons of honey per year and imported 7000, whereas in 2012 it produced merely 16,000 and imported 26,000.
Unfortunately, this problem is not only with the mislabelling of the origin of the product, but also in its composition. According to analysts from Cetam, many of these products being sold as honey are in fact being made with the addition of sugar syrup.
“Laws limit the quantity of sugar in honey, but this is based on the amount of sucrose found in the product, whereas much of the sugar added to these honeys comes from maltose” explained Schweitzer. A law in 2003 does not allow honey to contain more than five percent sucrose, fructose, glucose, sugar cane, or beetroot sugar.
Cetam works with the FranceAgriMer (under the ministry of Agriculture), and analyses about 3000 types of honey per year.