The Problem: Honey Tampering
What is honey tampering?
Imagine you walk into a store and purchase a cheap shirt from the “cotton t-shirt” rack. When you get home, you notice the material feels different, that’s because your cotton t-shirt is actually a blend of cotton and polyester, you were duped. This is the current threat in the honey industry, selling “pure honey” at a cheaper price because it has been mixed with cheaper sweeteners such as sugar syrup and rice malt syrup, this is called honey adulteration.
Let’s replay the scenario with a few different conditions.
You walk into a store and purchase a shirt from the “100% Australian cotton” rack. The marketing says Australian made so you don’t question it. Behind the scenes, the cotton in your t-shirt is a blend of cotton from India, China, America and Australia. You have no idea because when you bought it you were sold a promise of Australian authenticity. This process is happening all around the world with honey, which is blended together and packaged without any information about the location of constituents, the ingredients list simply reads “100% honey”.
The two primary reasons the industry does this is because 1. Imported honey from South-East Asia e.g. China, Malaysia, is cheaper than Australian Honey and 2. Because the customary taste of “shelf honey” consumers are used to requires the blend of multiple honeys to reach neutrality. In fact, industry demand for these cheaper imports is so heated that honey laundering has occurred to by-pass import tariffs and regulations all to increase company profit.
But why is this bad for bees? We import other foods into Australia
Imported honey can carry different strains of disease that can affect not only honeybees in Australia but over 1500 indigenous bee species. An example of this is a disease called American Foul Brood (AFB). AFB disease can be easily spread by well-intentioned animal lovers, feeding birds and possums honey outdoors with cheaper honey varieties that have been imported. Unfortunately, we’ve seen examples of imported diseases decimate Australian industry before, with cheaper imported prawns used as bait leading to an outbreak in Australian prawn farms.
The same thing is happening to our bee industry due to imported honey.
The Australian food industry is dependent on honeybee pollination, with over 2/3 of Australian food relying on it. For the pollination industry to stay strong we need healthy bees and a healthy honey industry within Australia. Our biosecurity testing measures seem lax in the current pollinator context, with only a minuscule amount of honey entering the country being tested. Furthermore, our testing facilities aren’t capable of running country of origin tests, which means import tariffs can be avoided using laundering tactics.
Australia’s reliance on honey blending with imported products means we are now globally considered a high risk country to buy honey from. Our industries reputation has been globally tarnished due to our blending for profit. We need to be supporting Australian producers, as wholesale prices are declining with reputation disputes and market saturation of cheaper alternatives. Australian Beekeeper’s are being paid as low as $3.10 per kilogram compared to New Zealand, who banned imports, which boast a wholesale price of $12 a kilogram. Australian honey deserves a premium price due to our pure honey free of chemical treatments because we are the only continent in the world free of Varroa mite.
Corporations are confusing consumers by not adding country of origin on their imported honey. Many Australian’s believe they are buying Australian honey when in fact it is from China, blended with sugar syrup and finally mixed with Australian honey. It is unfair Australian consumers do not know the country of origin on the honey they purchase.
Luckily, the solutions to this problem are simple and every individual has the power to take action. Buy honey from a local beekeeper and pay a fair price for the quality product. You can use our honey map tool to easily locate your nearest hive. Take a stand against imported honey by signing this petition, calling for the banning or labelling of imported honey. Talk to your friends and family about honey. Make sure they’re not feeding honey to wildlife. Remind them of the magic of honey by sampling local products made with different floral resources to finally discover what true Australian honey should taste like.
Moritz, R. & Erler, S., 2016, ‘Lost colonies found in data mine: Global honey trade but not pests or pesticides as a major cause of regional honeybee colony declines’, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Vol. 216, pp. 44-50. Available here
The following documents show test results for honey from Hive and Wellness Australia during Simon Mulvany’s legal battle against their use of imported honey. Samples were sent to Germany for NMR testing, which surpasses current testing methods available in Australia.
NMR works by sending a magnetic pulse through samples and measuring the signals reflected by the sample. These signals detect the carbohydrates and proteins in the sample. Each form of carbohydrate (e.g. honey, cane sugar, rice malt) and protein (from pollen) has a unique finger print. BY matching known finger prints with samples we can detect if the honey was adulterated with a sugar syrup or if the mixture is from multiple countries, which all have their own protein fingerprint because of floral protein differences.