A response from the AHBIC (Aus Honey Bee Ind Council) newsletter to the recent reports on adulteration of Australian honey. Obvious concerns re impact on industry as well as some comments on the report.
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN.
The last few weeks have been very eventful. Not only have we entered one of the busiest times of year for beekeeping, but the industry has been under intense media scrutiny concerning allegations of adulterated imported honey. However, this media attention has now become even more heightened with Australian Honey implicated as well.
This has created a great deal of uncertainty within the industry and any potential impact this may have on sales and prices. This has only added to the hardship of the drought already affecting both beekeepers and other
industry players and the prospects of a very poor honey season this coming year.
This coming week there may be more uncertainty that may affect us all. I implore all of you, look out for each other, support each other and don’t be afraid to ask a colleague how they are travelling. Remember, we are all
in this situation together.
We are both an industry and a community all bound together in our shared passion for what our little creature, the honey bee, can do and the magnificent product it creates. In times like this, we need to focus on the positive aspects of the Australian honey bee industry and what we provide for Australia.
At AHBIC we adopted the phrase “A small industry with a BIG impact” in our strategic plan because in one statement it exemplifies who and what we are. We are a small group, more like a family really, but our impact to Australia’s food security is huge. At times, we have differences of opinion, but in the end, we need to look after each other like a family. No one understands the highs and lows of beekeeping better than another beekeeper. Fluctuating prices, adverse weather events, the smell of honey as you drive in to a yard of bees, the widely diverse parts of the country we get to see.
But we can’t forget our industry is more than just beekeepers. We could not survive without our consumers, honey packers, equipment and service suppliers, along with a team of dedicated governmental staff who support
us. They are all as much a part of our industry as the beekeepers themselves. Poor media attention on the Honeybee industry affects us all.
Lastly, I offer you some of the positive things to focus on for our industry. If we all promote the best aspects of our industry we will go a long way to improving our whole beekeeping community and protecting our way of
Australia produces the best honey in the world, bar none. Examples are:
- We have the highest antibacterial activity Manuka available anywhere in the world.
- Even higher anti-bacterial qualities can be found in Jarrah honey varieties from Western Australia.
- Australian honeys such as Yellow Box possess unique low GI properties.
- Our high anti-oxidant and pre-biotic honeys improve people’s gut health and overall well-being.
- Australia has spectacular varieties of honey that cover the full range of colours and flavours.
- No chemical residues from the treatment of Varroa are present in any Australian honey or beeswax.
- We boast the healthiest bee populations in the world with the least diseases or parasites to endure, the least use of chemicals and cleanest environment in which bees are lucky to forage.
FAIRFAX ARTICLE AND 7.30 REPORT
The research paper from Macquarie University came out on Tuesday 2 October. The Fairfax newspapers ran a report on this study on Wednesday 3 October. Unfortunately we could not access a copy of the paper till late on
Tuesday 2 October despite, it would seem, the journalist having received a copy prior to this. It also ran on the 7.30 report on Wednesday 3 October.
So what does the study say? It is saying that 18% of Australian honey is adulterated. Unfortunately it does not identify where the honey came from so there is no chance for anyone to be able to do trace back to see if they
can identify a problem.
However Capilano have been in contact with Professor Mark Taylor, one of the authors, and on their website Capilano have the following quote from Professor Taylor “Our study was an aggregation of results from testing
honey from a variety of commercial sources and is not indicative of the purity levels of any specific brand of honey. The results of Capilano’s own testing are not inconsistent with our study.”
Also in some of the results for the C4 sugar there are a few questions to raise. There were two (2) samples from Tasmania that are claimed to be adulterated. We know that under the Codex Alimentarius leatherwood is
one of the honeys that can have a higher natural sugar content and this is allowed for under the Codex. So the results for the Tasmanian honey, if leatherwood, would indicate that it is within the Codex for C4 sugar so
therefore is possibly not adulterated.
Similar with the other Australian produced honeys listed in Codex that can also have a higher C4 sugar level, river red gum, lucerne, citrus & Menzies banksia. If these are the varieties in the samples then they are possibly
There are three (3) results for C4 sugar showing negative results. Asking around I cannot get a rational explanation as to how you can get a negative result for something that is supposed to be there.
Also disappointed at some of the inaccuracies in the Fairfax report. They say that one of the authors “decided to test Australian honey after a honey company was fined in Australia in 2016 for selling fake honey”. Now if this
is referring to the Victoria honey and the ACCC fining Basfoods, that was in 2014. Also it was not a honey company but an importer. It was not Australian honey but Turkish which was shown as such on the label. Sure it was not honey but it was not Australian.
The article also says that our Chair, Peter McDonald, was briefed by one of the authors on the results of the study. This is not correct. Peter was given the failure rates and nothing else. One of the authors emailed on a
copy of the paper to Peter at 8.41pm on Tuesday 2 October and as Peter was out shifting bees onto apple pollination he did not get home to see the paper till around 10.30 that night.
By not revealing the sources of the honey it means that all Australian honey is now being tarred with the same brush. As stated above it also means there is no way to trace back to see if a problem can be identified.
It is not clear from the paper if what is claimed to be honey from a State was actually produced in that State or packed in that State. Could be significant as we know that there are other Australian honeys under the Codex,
as listed above, that have higher natural sugars and are listed in the Codex.
It seems that we now have to get some interpretation of the results to see if some that are claimed as adulterated are actually covered for a higher natural sugar content under the Codex Alimentarius.