Honey fraud

animated_gif_bees_06 Honey fraud in the Philippines

Only about 100 tons per year of genuine bee honey is currently produced in the Philippines because the beekeeping sector is so small. (This compares for example to the similar sized asian country of Vietnam that produces about 40,000 tons of bee honey per year.)  The Philippine national consumption of ‘honey’ is unknown but it must be many 1,000’s of tons per year, although only 440 tons of genuine honey is recorded as being imported. (Records indicate that most of the genuine imported honey is used by reputable companies which make products such as breakfast cereals and some genuine honey is on the supermarket shelves from the USA and Australia.) It is clear therefore that the majority of so-called ‘Philippine honey’ on sale to the public is actually fraudulent.

This situation has given the opportunity for unscrupulous fraudsters to sell ‘fake honey’ as if it was genuine bee honey.  Some fraudsters have carved out large-scale operations over many years. The Cem honey fraud is the country’s largest organized operation which distributes its’ products nationwide via the supermarkets and makes its profits by systematically cheating millions of Philippine customers.  This sitution exists even though CEM ‘honey’ tastes unlike genuine bee honey (see the comments on taste etc) and does not have the complex chemical composition or natural health benefits of bee honey.

Fake honey can be cheaply made in a factory setting by ‘inverting’ ordinary sugar or sucrose into a syrup of glucose and fructose by heating and using a catalyst such as lactic acid. The fraudster may add some other components such as pollen and possibly small quantities of bee honey to try and simulate the naturally complex compositions of genuine bee honey.  There are various methods of identifying the fraudsters’ products – a common feature being a sour unpleasant after-taste. Another common feature is that the fraudster does not provide clear ‘contact details’ such as the supplier’s phone number or clear sourcing information (such as on a website) – because they want to hide the truth from their customers of course!

A worrying aspect of some unscrupulous ‘honey’ suppliers is that the compositions can contain quite unhealthy ingredients amongst which may be potential carcinogens such as heavy metals, banned pesticide residues and high levels of the hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) chemical caused by the heating and faking process (which would not be in unheated genuine bee honey). Apart from lots of sugar there would be little, if any, beneficial nutrients in the fraudsters’ fake ‘honey’ products. Many people buy ‘honey’ believing it will help with a medical condition – genuine bee honey will help but the fraudsters’ ‘honey’ is more likely to do harm.

Genuine 100% bee honey is made from flower nectar and converted into honey using the bees own enzyme amylase plus other biological processes and this would be very difficult to accurately synthesis artificially. The taste and colour of bee honey can be quite variable depending on the natural source of the flower nectar – a common feature of genuine bee honey is the smooth pleasant taste.  A common feature of genuine honey suppliers is that they are quite willing to provide clear ‘contact details’ such as a phone number and email address, and most beekeepers will have websites with clear sourcing information – because they are proud of their product and would like to inform and reassure their customers!

Click this link for more information about genuine bee honey.

Sadly, because of the overwhelming amount of fake honey for sale in the country many Philippine citizens are confused as to what genuine bee honey actually tastes like. However if someone is uncertain they can try contacting the supplier …

…  If the supplier and honey is genuine you will most likely get a willing and informative response.

…  If the supplier and ‘honey’ is fraudulent you will most probably find it difficult to contact the supplier and get a response, and if you do get a response then it will be uninformative and evasive.

Note:  There is every indication that the nation’s largest ‘honey’ supplier CEM Food Products (which distributes its products via the nation’s supermarkets) is a fraudulent ‘honey’ supplier.

In addition much of the ‘pure honey’ sold from honey hunters is diluted and mixed with sugar or other ingredients. This stuff does not taste like genuine honey from bees and neither does it have the ‘naturally healthy’ qualities of 100% genuine bee honey.  However, some honey hunters are trustworthy and do supply pure bee honey. (The problem however is that nearly all hunter hunters in the Philippines are using destructive methods which is killing off the bee colonies.)

The fraudulent and fake honey is sold by untrustworthy sources who evidently do not care about their customers and have probably never thought about the role of bees as pollinators, the environment, farmers crops or the livelihood of other people.  This widespread fraudulent trade undermines the agricultural economy since it disguises the situation that relatively little genuine honey is available in the Philippines from honeybees that are needed to pollinate crops. In addition, destructive honey hunting destroys the bee colonies that are needed to pollinate farmers crops.

Apart from being illegal, dishonest and immoral the very real problem exists that cheaply made fake honey can be sold to undercut the price of genuine bee honey and so it holds back the development of the Philippine beekeeping sector. This means that honest hard-working beekeepers who could make an important contribution to the agricultural economy are also cheated by the fraudsters.

In summary, there is nothing positive to be said about the fraudulent ‘honey’ trade in the Philippines and importantly (although it may not be obvious to many people) its’ existance actually does a lot of damage to the country’s agricultural economy. In addition the fraudster’s trade is illegal – and as such the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has a clear duty to try and protect the public from honey fraud.

(This link discusses the social & economic responsibility roles of the supermarkets.)

The FDA and the Cem Food Products company have been kept informed about the information on this website. The honey fraud continues unabated and the FDA has not even bothered to comment on this large-scale, important and persistant fraud. This website is open to everyone, but so far neither the FDA or Cem have chosen to respond with any information about their position. The Philippine public should be able to trust the food products they are being sold and need food suppliers to be open and honest.

So far the FDA is not adequately performing the role they are responsible for concerning honey fraud. The supermarkets appear to be pretending that the Cem honey fraud does not exist, and the current situation means that the supermarkets can make ‘legitimate’ money from fraudulent honey since the responsible government departments are not doing anything about it – even though they should all be aware of the immorality of the situation and the wider damage done to agriculture.

After asking the Cem company many times where they sourced their ‘honey’ from some response was eventually received. However, the only emails received so far from the Cem company have been very caustic and almost threatening. Importantly the Cem company absolutely will not provide me or their customers with any information on where their ‘honey’ comes from – even though it is labelled as honey from Philippine bees!

The Cem company, the FDA and the supermarkets can show that they actually care for their clients by ‘Leaving a reply’ (just as anybody else can) on the website to provide the public with their perspective.

6 Responses to Honey fraud

  1. Tom Henke says:

    i’ve come across another honey faker today here in San Jose City. The brand name is Marvel and is distributed by CVC supermarkets. Besides the net weight, that is the only information on the label. As soon as i smelled it, i knew it wasn’t honey, it smells exactly the same as that CEM goop and yes it has that sour after taste. I’m completely baffled to the total inaction of the FDA, my only explanation is that someone is getting paid off handsomely by CEM and the likes. Maybe a public education program is in order, to give the people back some power by not buying fake goop.

  2. Grace says:

    Hi,

    I’m selling honey from wild bees, just to help local “dumagat”communities to market their goods, but unfortunately, there are people from Metro Manila who already established the idea that true honey is thick similar to honeys in the supermarket. I’m sad. And others want us to supply in the supermarket, but we can’t, because it’s seasonal and we cannot ruined the environment just to feed human.

  3. Frederick Cabillo Po says:

    Most of the locally packed and bottled honey in supermarkets are obviously fake. For one thing, you can see that it is crystal clear! Since most of these bottlers and repackers supposedly gathered them from wild bees or small farm suppliers, honey from real sources would be somewhat fuzzy and may contain bits and pieces of materials like honey comb or propolis in it. I doubt if these folks own very expensive filter press systems that will remove these solids.

    The so called “Wild Honey” packed in recycled liquor bottles or Catsup bottles with labels that do not indicate the producer and their addresses which are sold in Rose and Grace restaurants in Sto.Tomas Batangas, is another example of fake honey.

  4. Rusty Fox says:

    I purchased a bottle of ‘honey’ at Walter Mart yesterday. It even had some ‘honeycomb’ in it. I noticed that the ‘honeycomb’ was made of paper, not wax, and was most likely wasp nest. The ‘honey’ smelled like golden syrup, one of the products of sugar cane. It had no honey smell, and only the vaguest taste of honey.

    I kept bees for many years back in Europe. I am very familiar with bees and honeycomb.

    As an experiment, I heated the ‘honeycomb’ in water in a microwave. There was no wax, and a few pupae. Obviously this fraud is deep seated, but as long as the people buy it, the fraud will continue. It can only be stopped by people refusing to buy the fake honey, because the governemnt will not do anything about it.

  5. Ralf Barnasch says:

    Hi,
    if the FDA will not react we have no other choice than to contact our new President Duterte. I’m sure he will have an ear for our problems and react accordingly. Not only drugs poison our country also those companies looking for an easy profit.

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks for warning about CME honey. I used to buy it at Robinson supermarket in Cebu. They stopped stock it few months ago. Now I know why.

    I found a honey product at Rustain super market in Ayala, Cebu city.
    What is your opinion about “PURE HONEY, Camiguin Island, R.U.S. Food trading” honey? (I wish I can post photo here but I don’t know how?)
    It is selling for P90/375ml bottle. Almost same price as CME. And far below price than other HONEY products.

    PURE HONEY, Camiguin Island, R.U.S. Food trading is thinner than CME and more expensive honey products. So I performed honey test, mixing with water. PURE HONEY, Camiguin Island, mixes with water very easily which makes me think it is NOT real honey.

    I mainly use it to mix with fresh squeeze Calamanci juice to make fresh Calamanci drinks.
    Maybe for my purpose PURE HONEY, Camiguin Island, R.U.S. Food trading is fine even though it may NOT be real honey? Maybe it’s sugar cane syrup?
    What is your opinion?
    Thanks.
    p.s. Can you send me a reply to my email?

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