Through a press release on 3 November 2020 the FSSAI has stated that it has taken note of CSE’s investigation on adulteration in honey. The Apex Authority has appreciated the efforts of CSE in promoting awareness among consumers about food safety and standards. The FSSAI will utilize the findings of this investigation to bring about any improvements in the food safety ecosystem pertaining to honey that are found necessary.
One of the points that has been raised in this investigation is about the non-prescription of Trace Marker for Rice syrup (TMR) for detecting adulteration of rice syrup in honey. FSSAI has clarified that a more sensitive Specific Marker for Rice syrup test (SMR) has already been made mandatory by the food regulator. Since SMR is a more focused test to detect adulteration of rice syrup in honey, hence, it was felt by scientific experts that TMR is not necessary. This view was concurred by the Ministry of Agriculture, and hence TMR has not been made mandatory as a test method.
Secondly FSSAI has clarified its stand regarding the utility and desirability of NMR for honey testing. FSSAI clarifies that NMR allows rapid, but database driven detection and quantification of various chemical compounds, especially for authenticating the origin of a sample of honey. Prior existence of a database is necessary for effective utilisation of this technique. No such database exists at present for Indian honey and therefore, FSSAI is of the opinion that NMR testing will have limited utility. The Apex Regulator goes on to state that almost no food regulator in the world has so far mandated NMR as a test method for honey.
Further the FSSAI has stated that the cost of conducting NMR test is quite high and the volumes available at present would not be sufficient to motivate laboratories to investigate honey through this high-end equipment. In view of the lack of a database, high skill requirement, high operating cost and high capital investment; the scientific panel has opined that NMR is not required at this juncture. The scientific panel has also pointed out that India, out of all the countries across the globe as well as Codex Alimentarius Commission, has the most stringent standards for honey.
CSE has also pointed out that FSSAI has issued instructions for checking adulteration of honey with golden syrup, invert sugar syrup, and rice syrup. CSE has opined that this is an erroneous order because nowadays companies are using fructose syrup to adulterate honey. FSSAI had issued the said instructions in this regard last year on 23 December 2019, for the first time, on the basis of a request from the Ministry of Agriculture, which had suggested that these imported syrups are being used for adulteration of honey. Action is required to prevent adulteration from various sources, and hence this order is not erroneous, but is a part of the food regulators ongoing efforts to prevent adulteration in honey.
As far as detection of fructose is concerned, the scientific team at FSSAI is of the opinion that the currently prescribed method EA – LC – IRMS is as sensitive as NMR, if not better, for detecting fruit origin sugars. The parameters related to isotropic ratio and foreign oligosaccharides are meant for detection of individual fruit sugars. The isotropic ratio and foreign oligosaccharides coupled with C3 and C4 sugar detection can easily determine fruit origin sugars.
FSSAI has also stated that they are unclear as to why some tests like SMR have not been conducted by CSE on the samples that are spiked with adulterants. FSSAI has requested CSE for details of the samples and the tests conducted by them. As soon as details become available, they will be analysed by FSSAI to draw conclusions about the protocols followed and suggest any improvements that are required in the test methodology for future.
Source : FSSAI