Why the traceability of honey is essential

Affan Yesvi
Affan YesviDec 14, 2020 | 17:04

Why the traceability of honey is essential

While FSSAI permits some amount of sugar mixing, traceability is the only answer those consumers who insist on real and natural honey.

The ongoing Covid pandemic experience has taught us much about building immunity. Hence, consuming natural foods for good health. Hence, honey.

But a shocker came with ‘honeygate’ when some of the leading brands in the Indian market were found selling honey adulterated with sugar syrup.

We must now develop systems where a product can be labelled as “pure honey” only if full traceability to a registered beekeeper is ensured. Customers are ready to pay more for quality. Honey without a known source must not be treated as honey.


(Representative photo: Reuters)

Natural and raw honey is naturally prone to crystallisation. Due to low awareness, consumers tend to assume that crystallised honey has gone bad. This is one of the reasons that honey is mixed with sugar syrup. The other reason is pure economics.

A beekeeper or a collector of natural honey must sell it at Rs 110 per kg, which is the approximate cost to keep the business profitable. Processed honey (without the addition of any sugar syrup) must provide for wastage, which will further increase the cost to Rs 180 a kg. With the margins that must be provided to all those in the supply chain, the price of natural and processed honey may go up to Rs 360 per kg. 

At this price, the purchase of honey becomes unviable for most buyers. Adulteration with sugar syrup keeps prices down, and also makes honey more affordable for the common man.

Going by the standards specified by the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), some mixture of sugar syrup is permissible. The syrup may be derived from sugarcane, corn, cane, rice, or beetroot. Such an admixture is approved for consumer sale by FSSAI. Higher use of sugar syrup may be regarded as adulteration. The study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on the quality of honey indicated that the presence of fructose in honey was higher than the permissible limit. Hence it was classified as adulteration.


In 2018, the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister set up a Beekeeping Development Committee under the Chairmanship of Professor Bibek Debroy. The Beekeeping Development Committee released its report in June 2019, in which it specified that honey (and bee products) sold in India or exported should be traceable to a registered beekeeper or a registered collector (in the case of rock bee honey). The committee further recommended that honey without a known source must not be treated as honey.

While FSSAI permits some amount of sugar mixing, traceability is the only answer for consumers who insist on procuring real and natural honey. The honey supply chain must be completely transparent. This can easily be achieved now with the support of technology and digitisation. 

As per the Food and Agricultural Organization database, in 2017-18, India ranked eighth in the world in terms of honey production (64.9 thousand tonnes), while China stood first with a production level of 551 thousand tonnes. Beekeeping Development Committee recommended that beekeeping must not be restricted to honey and wax only. Products such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom are highly marketable and can help Indian farmers in boosting their income.


If India formalises apiculture and recognises its potential as an industry, the honey supply chain shall be fully known. The traceability of honey shall be a natural consequence of making the honey supply chain transparent.

Last updated: December 14, 2020 | 17:04
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