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Experts slam unavailability of fit-for-purpose technology for honey testing

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At a recent industry gathering, renowned experts from across the value chain of honey-making underscored the need to adopt a validated ‘fit for purpose’ and grass-root testing methodology to prevent instances of adulteration in honey in India.

The specialists focused on the robustness of existing testing standards in India, which ensure that the consumers get the honey of the highest quality. Dr. Lalitha R. Gowda, Chief Scientist (Rtd.), CFTRI, Mysuru, emphasized that while NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) is a “good biochemistry technique, however, for honey, the NMR method currently lacks that kind of database to give out reliable and authentic result.”

The panel discussion was hosted by India Honey Alliance, an association of honey producers, beekeepers, and technology experts, formed to create a unified platform to promote the Indian honey industry. The experts came together to address the issues raised by the result of honey testing done by one of the research agencies in December 2020.

The experts agreed that honey cannot be tested for impurities in shops and homes, and hence, the value chain needs to be empowered with science and technology to create a robust, transparent and profitable starting from the beekeepers till the end consumer.

Reaffirming Dr Gowda’s sentiment, Dr. (Mrs) Ajit Dua, CEO, Punjab Biotechnology Incubator, asserted that “there is no single test that can detect all kinds of adulterants and contaminants in honey. One needs to consider a combination of tests to decide upon the quality of honey.”

Based on the discussions which ensued, IHA and the experts collectively agreed to develop a whitepaper to determine the ‘fit for purpose’ and implementable scientific techniques and methodologies to test honey at the grass root.

Further, it was suggested that a lab with state-of-art, cutting-edge technologies be established exclusively for honey testing, which could also house a biobank for different types of authentic honey that are available across the country and world.

Slamming the unavailability of ‘Fit-for-purpose’ technology for honey testing, the experts said that:

  no single test can detect impurities, adulterants of honey

  they recommend making technology accessible at the grassroots levels to ensure the purity, safety, authenticity of honey

• purity of honey needs to be decided basis the combination of results of various methods

• honey should be rigorously tested at processing level

• it is practically impossible to make any changes in the constitution of the honey post processing.

• a proper training of all the future beekeepers to make them aware about all the scientific methods.

• there has to be a minimum support price of honey to boost for the beekeepers to sell pure honey.

Among the eminent scientists and food experts who participated in the discussions spread across a series of four webinars ‘Hive to Home’ organized by India Honey Alliance, were:

Surendar Sharma, CEO, Patanjali Ayurveda;  Dr Anu AppaiahHead, Food Protection (Retired) and Infestation Control, CFTRI, Mysuru; Arvind Chauhan, Bee-keeper;  Naveen GargDirector, Kashmir Honey;  Vinit Singh, Director, Brij Honey; Shahrukh Khan, ED-Operations, Dabur India Limited; Dr. (Mrs) Ajit Dua, CEO, Punjab Biotechnology Incubator, Mohali, the National Reference Laboratory for Sweets & Honey and Director, Punjab State Biotech Corporation; Dr. Lalitha R. Gowda, Chief Scientist (Rtd.), CFTRI, Mysuru; Dr. Kaushik Banerjee, Chairman – India Section of AOAC International and Principal Scientist, National Referral Laboratory, National Research Centre for Grapes, Pune; Dr. Rajesh Nair, Director, Centre for Analysis & Learning in Livestock & Food (CALF), National Dairy Development Board; Deepak Jolly, Secretary General, India Honey Alliance; Dr. K. Laxmi Rao, Asst. Director, CBRTI, KVIC; Arvind Chauhan (Apiarist, Entrepreneur); Bheem Singh (Lupin Foundation); Ashok Kapoor (Consumer Rights Organization); Dr. Bhushan Shrikhande, Senior President Technical, Baidyanath; Dr Younis Munshi, Scientist 4, Ministry of Ayush; Ishi Khosla (Clinical Nutritionist, Author, and Researcher); Suparna Trikha (Expert Natural Beauty & Wellness expert).