Environment watchdog CSE said it has shared details of its investigation into the “well-organised” honey adulterating business with food regulator FSSAI.
The Centre for Science and Environment recently came out with an investigation, which claimed that top brands in the country were selling honey adulterated with sugar syrup. CSE also added that any claim by these companies of meeting all Indian standards “holds limited value” and is “jugglery” of language.
It may be noted that Dabur had released a statement yesterday, rejecting the investigation. Others like Emani and Patanjali have denied the findings of the investigation as well.
CSE Director General Sunita Narain stated that the investigations have uncovered how honey adulteration business, though sophisticated, is designed to bypass the purity and quality standards laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
In a statement released today, the environment watchdog said it has presented details of the case to FSSAI officials, including chairperson Rita Teotia and CEO Arun Singhal. The details of the investigation including all key findings have been shared, said Narain.
“CSE also showed how Chinese companies were openly advertising products to bypass standards on their website; how it had contacted these companies; and how it had procured the sample,” it said.
CSE informed that FSSAI officials asked about the specific names under which adulterants were being imported to India. CSE said in its investigation how Honeygate has a China connection.
The watchdog said fructose and glucose were being imported into India — 11,000 tonnes in the past few years. It added that a bulk of it was from China.
The CSE went on to say that FSSAI officials wanted to know about the tests conducted on the deliberately adulterated syrup samples. These syrup samples were procured by CSE from China and a factory in Jaspur in Uttarakhand.
CSE explained to FSSAI that the syrup was called “all-pass syrup” in India. FSSAI representatives further inquired why CSE had not asked for SMR — specific maker for rice — in the spiked samples that were sent to the National Dairy Development Board laboratory in Gujarat for testing.
The FSSAI officials said SMR was required for detecting adulteration by rice syrup and added that the other tests — isotope ratio tests and foreign oligosaccharides — were unable to detect rice syrup adulteration, according to the statement issued by CSE.
“Our research has clearly established that samples adulterated even up to 50 per cent can bypass our testing for C3 and C4 sugar,” Narain said.
FSSAI official had also asked about the economics of the syrup and why it would be favoured over natural honey.
CSE’s Arnab Dutta said, “The Indian and Chinese syrups offered to us were much cheaper — while the sample cost was between Rs 53-68 kg, we were told we could get the sample at much more competitive rates once we placed bulk orders.”
Furthermore, FSSAI officials also wanted to know if there was an existing database for Indian honey for effective screening for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) tests.
The CSE replied that it had sent the samples for NMR tests to one of the top food testing laboratories of the world, based in Germany, which has the expertise and necessary databases for NMR screening.
CSE handed over the samples and documents to FSSAI and asked the food regulator to take up the matter expeditiously. The watchdog stressed the urgency of the matter as it invoked health, especially amid the ongoing pandemic.
“The adulteration business is a double-whammy for us, as we have increased our honey consumption to boost immunity and that instead of honey we are now ingesting sugar. We know that overweight people are more at risk to COVID-19 and therefore, it is necessary that this extremely well-organised honey adulteration business, which is so bad for us, is immediately stopped,” Narain said.