Explosion of adulteration and “Greekization” in honey

By | May 16, 2023

Massive imports from China and mixtures with substitutes based on rice or starch syrups, even toxic dyes – With modern technology systems they alter the characteristics of the products.

Honey continues to be popular, especially among those who follow a healthy diet, precisely because it is not an industrial product. However, to have honey we need apiaries, beekeepers, but also the search for areas where it can be produced, which implies additional costs.

At the same time, the production of honey in our country does not meet the demand. This gap in the domestic market is what the “producers” try to cover by succumbing to the double temptation of adulteration and “Greekization” of imported honey, degrading the product that reaches the consumer but also harming national beekeeping.

Of the champions of counterfeiting

The honey that consumers find on the shelves is most commonly advertised as a “Greek product,” with the ingredients listed on the back of the package. But when it comes to the product of small producers, that… luxury does not exist and the quality is left to the solvency of the beekeeper. In practice, however, honey is among the 10 most commonly adulterated foods. Mixing is done with rice-based substitutes or starch syrups.

According to Chrysoula Tananaki, associate professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Beekeeping Laboratory, “adulterated honey exists that contains amounts of high fructose syrup and to which aroma and color are also added.” “Two years ago, caramel color was found, which is toxic,” Vassilis Alichos, secretary of the Acaya Beekeepers Association, hastened to add.

For his part, Giorgos Lehouritis, president of the Consumer Institute, stresses that there are “modern technology systems that alter the characteristics of products, while counterfeiting is so great that the world cannot protect itself.”

During the last three years 2020-2022, laboratory analyzes of 548 honey samples were carried out, which were provided by various authorities, in the laboratories of the General Directorate of General Chemistry of the state. Of these, 110 were labeled “abnormal” for various parameters and 14 of the “abnormal” honey samples were found to be adulterated.

The EFET in the period 2019-2022 carried out 165 controls and received 387 samples for examination, of which 325 samples were part of quality and counterfeiting programs and the remaining 62 were taken as part of extraordinary controls after complaints from the competent authorities of member states of the European Commission. In these, five cases of honey adulterated with exogenous sugars were identified.

At the same time, seven processing, standardization and commercialization companies were investigated by EFET, of which three were considered, based on the results of the analysis, suspected of fraud or complicity in fraud. The phenomenon of adulteration of honey is, of course, not only Greek. According to a survey by the European Union, of the 320 samples that were reviewed by the competent authorities of the participating countries, 147 (46%) were considered suspicious.

Imports of dubious quality

As Vassilis Alichos explains, “the honey produced within the European Union is not enough, that is why imports from third countries are made.” The country from which the largest amount of honey is imported to Greece is China. According to the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, during the period 2020-2023, a total of 72 imports of honey from China were made, for a total value of 2,679,951 euros and a net mass of 1,991,174 kg, through the 3rd Import Customs of Piraeus and the 1st Import-Export Customs of Thessaloniki.

The problem with massive imports of honey from the Asian country is that the quality of the product cannot be certified in advance and with certainty. In fact, at a European level it is estimated that 74% of the quantities imported from China are suspected of being counterfeit.

The situation is further complicated by the impossibility of recording the exact origin of the quantities imported, a fact that is exploited by those who proceed to “hellenization”. As the president of the Federation of Beekeeping Associations of Greece, Anastasios Pontikis, explains, “honey imported from China passes through membranes and in this way pollen grains that can “betray” their origin are eliminated.”

Counterfeit products also on supermarket shelves

All of the above, unsurprisingly, has caused concern among consumers, as it is now impossible to know for sure if what they are buying is really… honey. As Stratis Taxidis, an agronomist at the Lesbos Beekeeping Cooperative, points out, cases of counterfeiting have even been found on the shelves of supermarket chains, “with the consumer being deceived, as they are paying for something that does not comply with the legislation of our country”. “.

For his part, Andreas Bekas, an agricultural technologist, argues that “the only way for consumers to avoid pitfalls is to purchase honey from producers they personally know and trust.” However, the General Secretary for Trade and Consumer Protection, Sotiris Anagnostopoulos, has a different opinion: “The consumer should be doubly careful when buying honey in bulk. Only in the case of packaged products can we have a clear idea of ​​where they come from.”

Finally, from the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food they point out that the National Beekeeping Registry and the Individual Digital Beekeeping Identity were established to deal with the phenomena of honey counterfeiting. An additional tool is the e-miel digital service, which captures step by step the path of the product in the production chain, in the context of applying a traceability system for bee products.

Printed version “TA NEA”

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