Lynley Donelley, writing for the Mail & Guardian, has unpacked a current view on SA honey with some frank reporting on what’s actually going on. How adulterated is our honey really?
SA’s honey pot becoming bitter
Once or twice a year, an enormous bucket of honey makes its way to a friend’s kitchen counter. After harvesting it from his two hives at a game farm near the Cradle of Humankind, he brings it home, where he lets it settle for a few days. He then steadily taps out jars of the glorious gloop for sale to friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Knowing a guy who is “in the honey” may be an unsolicited gift. Globally, honey is one of the top 10 products most susceptible to food fraud, according to a report for the European Parliament.
Adulterated honey — honey that is mixed with sweeteners, syrups or any non-bee product — has become a major concern for some of the world’s largest honey-consuming countries, such as the United States and Germany.
It has come hand in hand with worry about imports from major producers such as China, where it is claimed that industrialised production methods, where “unripe” honey is harvested early and mechanically dried, are used to produce a poorer-quality honey for less cost.
Honey has been at the heart of one of the largest food fraud cases in the US, after a German food group and its executives were accused of disguising Chinese honey imports to avoid higher tariffs by shipping it through other countries including Russia and Malaysia.
South Africa is not immune to these worries; honey adulteration can take place once a product has been imported. A perusal of honey on retail shelves will typically reveal that much of our honey is imported and is a blend of honey from a range of countries stretching from China to Argentina.
According to Wandile Sihlobo, agricultural economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber, there has been growing concern about cheap and adulterated honey, particularly from Asian countries.
Although the extent of the problem in South Africa is not clear, imports of honey have risen from 476 tonnes in 2001 to 4 206 tonnes last year, he said. On average, about 76% of those imports are from China.
“The question is whether we are getting the right quality of honey,” he said. Read More from this Mail & Guardian article.