Feds find 21 percent of tested honey samples adulterated

All of the "unsatisfactory" products were imported into Canada

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      The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has announced that a surveillance program targeting honey sold to Canadians has found that more than 21 percent of tested samples were adulterated with foreign sugars.

      It also noted that all domestic samples tested were clean, while the tampered products were all imports.

      The undertaking—with 14 weeks of sampling from June to September 2018 and laboratory testing of 240 samples collected across the country stretching into 2019—tested both bulk and retail honey and involved distributors, importers, retailers, processors, and other facilities.

      According to a July 9 CFIA bulletin, when other ingredients are mixed into honey that is represented as "genuine", such actions constitute food fraud.

      The federal agency, which enforces standards set by Health Canada, tested for foreign sugars using two analytical methods: stable isotope ratio analysis (SIRA) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). SIRA is useful to detect the presence of corn and sugar-cane syrups, while NMR can detect those and other foreign sugars, such as rice syrup.

      Of the 240 samples analyzed (go here for access to detailed analysis results), 21.7 percent (52 of 240) were deemed "unsatisfactory" (showing the presence of added sugars) by one or both testing methods; 78.3 percent (188 out of 240) proved "satisfactory" by both methods. 

      The CFIA bulletin noted: "All domestic samples were satisfactory by both tests. All of the unsatisfactory results were for samples of imported product."

      The bulletin also said that enforcement actions, including both product disposal and removal from the country, occurred as of January 3 this year. It noted as well that some "enforcement activities are ongoing. Appropriate enforcement actions are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the harm caused by the non-compliance, the compliance history of the regulated party, and whether there is intent to violate federal requirements. CFIA continues to follow up on all products found to be non-compliant."

      In total, according to the CFIA, 12,762 kilograms of tainted honey worth $76,758 were prevented from entering the market.

      The bulletin also said that genuine honey is duty-free when it crosses the border, "whereas artificial honey (whether or not mixed with genuine honey) involves a rate of duty".

      The agency did not name any of the companies or brands involved in the unsatisfactory testing, but it publishes quarterly reports of compliance and enforcement activities here.