Honey bottle
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Abu Dhabi: Saudi authorities have shut down a number of honey stores in Abha, Asir for selling adulterated honey and blends, local media reported.

The Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, in cooperation with the Food and Drug Authority carried out inspection tours of honey shops in Abha and its suburbs, the Souda and Mahalla regions, to ensure the quality of honey displayed and stores abine by new labelling rules.

The closed shops were accused of selling products mixed with cheaper syrups.

What have I been eating?

Honey is a mixture of sugars, mostly fructose and glucose. But honey has particular flavours and properties that come from the flowers and the natural processing the bees do.

Fake honey is generally some honey mixed with other sugar syrups. These syrups come from plants like sugar cane, corn, or rice. They can be cheaper and easier to produce than honey.

While these contaminating syrups aren’t likely to be harmful, they might have different nutrient profiles, sweetness levels, glycemic indexes, and have undergone different processing.

Legal experts say it is legal to sell honey blends, like glucose and honey, or “honey flavoured sugar syrups” but these need to be labelled so people know what they are paying for.

Saudi FDA tests honey for purity

The official test to check if honey is pure is called the “C4 sugar test.” Plants have different ways of producing sugars, using different chemical pathways depending on the plant and the conditions in which it is grown. Bees collect nectar mostly from flowers of plants in the “C3 cycle”, and much less from plants using C4 pathways to make sugars.

The C4 test picks up most fake honey, because most of the cheap sugar syrups used to make fake honey came from C4 plants, like corn and sugar cane. But newer substitutes, like rice, wheat, and beet syrups, come from C3 plants, and so won’t be picked up.