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80% local honey sold ‘not pure’ [ 30-08-2006 ]

80% local honey sold ‘not pure’

New Straits Times On Line: Local News 05 Sep 2006
By Sulaiman Jaafar

KOTA BARU: Many of us regularly take a spoonful of local honey for an energy boost and to improve our health. But how many people realise that much of the honey in the local market is devoid of nutritional benefit and could even be hazardous to health?

A recent study by a Universiti Malaya team found that about 80 per cent of the Malaysian honey in the market is either adulterated or synthetic.

Led by Prof Dr Kamaruddin Mohd Yusoff of the Faculty of Medicine, the team collected hundreds of bottles from wet and night markets, medicine shops and supermarkets around the country.

Dr Kamaruddin, who has been researching honey for the past 20 years, said of 40 samples taken for the final study, only nine were pure honey.

"It is estimated that only one in five bottles of honey sold is pure, while the rest is either synthetic or adulterated," he said at the First International Conference on the Medicinal Uses of Honey organised by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Health campus recently. More than 100 people attended, with a large participation from overseas.

Adulterated honey is produced by mixing a portion of pure honey with a large proportion of sugar solution (cane sugar) or by feeding bees with sugar solution.

Synthetic honey is made from high fructose syrup, which is manufactured by acid treatment of sugar solutions such as corn syrup, to form a honey-like substance in taste and appearance.

"It contains high levels of hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde (HMF) which is toxic to liver cells. It can also lead to colon cancer.

"The bigger danger is to diabetics who use honey to sweeten their drinks. Pure honey, which contains a maximum of five per cent sucrose (sugar), does not affect the blood sugar level. In tests, their blood sugar level showed a similar response to that of taking a normal breakfast.

"But if the honey is adulterated it can aggravate their condition, as it contains up to 50 per cent sucrose," Dr Kamaruddin said.

He said he was told syndicates use Orang Asli to convince buyers that the honey they offer is authentic.

There is no simple way of determining the purity of honey. The best is to buy direct from a reputable source.

Businessmen, Dr Kamaruddin said, could send samples of their products for testing at UM’s Honey Research Centre for a small fee. He said there was more adulterated honey in the market than synthetic, but the latter was being promoted intensively.