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Honey analysis

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Honey – our Speciality

Honey in General

- Codex Alimentarius Excerpt -

Honey has been a natural food for millennia and is part of a healthy and balanced diet.

The worldwide range of different types of honey includes honeydew honey, forest honey, varietal honey and specialities such as Manuka honey from New Zealand.

The requirement for high standards of quality, typical specifications and strict maximum quantity regulations guarantee its naturalness.

It is therefore important to us to preserve this diverse natural product in its complex composition and to ensure its high quality features.

We face up to this challenge: honey is our speciality.

Determination of varieties

Varietal honeys are classed as a special feature due to their characteristic properties. In these honeys, the nectar / honeydew originates mainly from one forage source. The determination of a variety poses special requirements for the analysis due to its uniqueness. Pollen analyses, electrical conductivity and sensory characteristics are essential parameters for the characterization of traditional honey. Typical varieties are rapeseed honey, acacia honey, sunflower honey, fruit blossom honey, as well as forest honey, fir honey and pine honey.

Quality parameters

Quality criteria such as water content, HMF and diastatic activity are basic parameters regulated in the European honey regulations. They provide information about damage caused by heat and storage as well as maturity. Special requirements (e.g. invertase activity) are set out in the guidelines of the D.I.B.


Residues in honey analysis can be subdivided based on your entry as follows.

Residues from beekeeping (varroacides/antibiotics)

The almost worldwide spread of the Varroa mite and attempts to control it require various treatment measures. Improper use can lead to residues in honey (e.g. Amitraz, Fluvalinate, Coumaphos). Various antibiotics (e.g. sulfonamides, streptomycin) are used for treating foulbrood disease. This unauthorized application can also lead to residue problems.

Residues from agriculture

The widespread use of various pesticides in agriculture can lead to residues in honey. Glyphosate, neonicotinoids (thiacloprid, acetamiprid) as well as fungicides (e.g. boscalid, azoxystrobin) are relevant in this regard.

Natural contaminants

Pyrrolizidine and tropane alkaloids are among the natural contaminants in honey. These natural edible toxins are produced by special plants (for example ragwort) and pass through the nectar into the honey. Such alkaloids are suspected to have a harmful effect, which is why their concentration should be low in honey.

Environmental contaminants

Various environmental contaminants of human origin such as heavy metals (e.g., lead), polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), as well as PCBs can also lead to residue problems in honey.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

The worldwide cultivation of GMO crops such as maize, oilseed rape and soya (for example in South America) is steadily increasing. The genetic modification of these plants is anchored in the genome of the flower pollen, which is introduced into the honey by the bee when collecting the nectar. This entry is unavoidable and does not represent a loss of honey quality. Typical representatives are round-up ready soybeans and MON-810 maize. The authorization status of individual GMO plants in the EU regulates and limits their use.


Honey has been the epitome of authentic natural food for millennia. Increasing demand and limited availability result in the product being a potential target for adulteration. Due to the international trade in honey, a large number of different adulterations can occur. Misrepresentations of geographic and botanical origin are as much a problem as deliberate adulteration of honey by stretching with various syrups or sugar solutions.

Microscopic examinations, sugar analyses and the determination of various marker substances are the first indications of the authenticity of a honey. In addition, modern instrumental analysis such as isotope mass spectrometry (IRMS), NMR or high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) provides possibilities for detecting adulterants and is an indispensable part of honey analysis today.

 ©FoodQS, January 2021



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