All food labs that test honey for antibiotics must do so according to the new standards prescribed by the FSSAI – India’s food regulatory body. The beekeeping industry uses antibiotics to control diseases in bees which increases honey production. Honey used within, the country, honey for export as well as imported honey is now tested for antibiotics in testing labs approved for honey testing by FSSAI.
Health reasons for honey testing
When honey contaminated with antibiotics is consumed on a regular basis then contaminated honey can build drug resistance. When these antibiotics are prescribed to consumers for any disease these antibiotics may not work. Besides drug resistance, contaminated honey could lead to blood related diseases and could damage the kidney, liver, bone and teeth over time since honey is given even to children and the elderly because of its health benefits
FSSAI has now set the maximum residue limits (MRL) for antibiotic in honey and all honey must undergo food testing to ensure it is within permissible limits. All types of honey produced, packaged or sold in India including imported honey will need to comply with these new standards. All food testing laboratories do not have approval from FSSAI to test honey. If honey is marketed with residues exceeding the permissible limits then the honey can be rejected for sale. Sometime back Indian honey was banned from the EU as it contained antibiotics and did not have pollen. Any honey that does not have pollen cannot be tested. The presence of pollen is a determining factor that authenticates the purity of honey. It is important to get honey tested only from a NABL Food Lab that is accredited and notified by FSSAI for testing honey as only they can determine if the honey is pure or adulterated.
Honey can be adulterated or contaminated easily
Besides antibiotics, honey can be adulterated with corn syrup, sugar syrup, invert sugar, flour, starch, glucose, dextrose, molasses and other products that make honey impure. Therefore the ‘Pure Honey’ label can be misleading as it could contain these adulterants and also pesticides and heavy metals like lead which are environmental contaminants. Sometimes honey is contaminated with fungicides used against pests in fruit trees. Expensive honey is often blended with cheaper varieties for financial gains.
Honey as ingredient
Honey is not only eaten as honey but honey is often used as an ingredient in a number of other food products like confectionery, in bakery products like cakes and biscuits, sherbats or honey based drinks. Honey is also used in roasted meats, vegetables and as a salad dressing. Honey has always had wide usage and is also used in cosmetics. Therefore, using honey that has not been tested for antibiotics, adulterants or contaminants can also contaminate these products. Honey testing from NABL food testing labs is now mandatory and all honey manufacturers and importers alike are getting their honey tested so they are in compliance with the new FSSAI standards for honey.