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Do we buy quality honey?

< previous | next > 01.02.2019

Do we buy quality honey?
  • Lime-tree, buckwheat, manuka – do we buy quality honey?
  • In Q2 2018, the Trade Inspection Authority inspected 269 honey batches, with 48 of them being subject to reservations.
  • Doubts were raised because of the labelling, not so much because of the composition.

In 2017, honey production in Poland amounted to over 15 thousand tonnes. Roughly the same volume was imported, mainly from the European Union. Before buying a honey jar, it is worth considering whether we are of the country of origin as well as of the type of particular honey.

An inspection carried out by the Trade Inspection Authority

In Q2 2018, the Trade Inspection Authority verified the commercial quality of honey in 43 facilities – large and small shops, online stores, and wholesale companies. Irregularities were identified in 21 cases (48.8%).

The inspectors checked 269 honey batches, 80 of which were examined in the UOKiK laboratories in Kielce, Olsztyn, Poznań, and Warsaw. Inspectors had reservations about 48 honey batches (17.8%). 36 of them were challenged due to wrong labelling, with the remaining twelve (15% of the batches examined in the laboratories) being challenged due to quality reservations.

A blossom honey is named after a plant whose pollen is dominant in honey. The lab examination showed that certain types of honey featured a lower content of the dominant pollen than required under applicable regulations. For example:

  • In lime-tree honey, the content of the dominant pollen of lime ranged from 1.9% to 7.7%, which in reality should not account for less than 20%.
  • In buckwheat honey, the content of the dominant pollen of buckwheat ranged from 23.8% to 35.5%, which in reality should not account for less than 45%.
  • In dandelion honey, the content of the dominant pollen of dandelion merely accounted for 5.1%.
  • In acacia honey, the content of the dominant pollen of acacia accounted for 22.2% instead of the minimum 30%.
  • In manuka honey from New Zeland, the content of the dominant pollen of manuka accounted for merely 13% and 12.2%.

In several batches of honey (buckwheat, mixed flower honey, and manuka) the inspectors found that the content of HMF was higher than acceptable. It's a chemical compound which gradually appears in honey during storage, especially if kept in high temperature levels and in the sunlight. Its content is an indicator of the quality of honey; the lower the content, the better the quality of the honey. Moreover, in the flavour of acacia honey you could clearly sense a sugar syrup, which is not typical of honey.

Irregularities in terms of labelling (36 batches) are as follows:

  • Failure to specify the date of minimum durability.
  • No information on net honey quantity.
  • Manufacturer's address was not indicated.
  • An improper country of origin – the labelling read "from Provence", and in reality the honey came from Spain.
  • Failure to specify the full name, type, and variety of honey.

The inspectors did not find any irregularities as for observing the validity of the dates of minimum durability or storage conditions.

As a result of the inspection, the Trade Inspection Authority referred in total 18 notifications to the competent sanitary (1) or veterinary (3) supervision authorities as well as to the Voivodeship Inspectorates of Agricultural and Food Quality (14).

As a result, the President of UOKiK issued eight decisions on the imposition of financial penalties totalling PLN 6.9 thousand for marketing products non-compliant with the commercial quality, including one decision due to falsification – low net content in two honey packages.

Consumer advice

  • Buy honey only from a source you are familiar with. Look the name and address of the manufacturer on the packaging – you know in that case who is responsible for its quality.
  • Depending on the type of apiary, the cost of manufacturing of 1 kg of honey in Poland ranges from a dozen or so zloty to around PLN 20 zloty. If the price of honey is much cheaper, changes are it has been imported or is of low quality.
  • Even if honey is sold by a Polish distributor, it doesn't mean that it comes from Poland – read the label carefully!
  • Natural honey crystallises several months after harvest. In Autumn, each honey should be partially crystallised. If that's not the case, it is possible that the seller heated it up and poured it off again, which means that the honey loses all of its properties.
  • Labels often read: "A mixture of honey from the EU or non-EU countries". Jars like these may contain a significant amount of honey from Asian countries that feature antibiotics or substances which are allowed in these countries but prohibited under EU laws.
  • There are several ways to tell the difference between an artificial honey and a real honey: an artificial honey will dissolve immediately in cold water, the real one will drop to the bottom of the glass; the real honey, if poured from a teaspoon onto a plate, will form a cone, and an artificial one, by contrast, will spill immediately and won't form any cone.
  • Entrepreneurs may be inspected by the Trade Inspection Authority, whereas persons selling falsified honey that are not entrepreneurs may be questioned by the police, and if it's a retail agricultural trade – by the Inspection of Trade Quality of Agricultural and Food Articles.

Do you have any doubts about honey? Report them to the relevant Provincial Trade Inspection offices.

Consumer support:

Phone: +48 801 440 220 or +48 22 290 89 16 – consumer helpline
Email: [SCODE]cG9yYWR5QGRsYWtvbnN1bWVudG93LnBs[ECODE]
Consumer ombudsmen – in your town or district

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office 
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland
Phone: +48 695 902 088, +48 22 55 60 246
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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