How To Spot Fake Honey

Five questions to ask your honey supplier to check if your honey is real

According to Michigan State University's Food Fraud Initiative (FFI), honey is the third most faked food in the world.

Michigan State University Food Fraud Initiative

The UK health food chain Holland and Barrett recently (July 2018) announced plans to begin testing its manuka honey after learning that most manuka honey on the market today is fake.

A recent survey (September 2018) by an international honey fraud detection laboratory found that nearly half of the honey sold on Australian supermarket shelves is adulterated.


All (100%) of Yemen Sidr honey sold in the UK and EU is illegally smuggled into the country because port health authorities cannot guarantee that it is free of chemicals harmful to humans. Much of it is fake too.

How can a consumer spot fake honey and how can a consumer guarantee he is getting real honey?

Manuka honey

Honey is big business. With jars of manuka and Yemeni Sidr honey selling in the UK for £100 a jar, it is not surprising that international honey laundering networks would seek to profit from honey.

There are three main ways in which honey is faked:

1. Sugar, corn syrup or other substances are added to honey sold off as "pure."

Clear runny honey that is super sweet and leaves an acidic taste in the throat is more likely to contain sugar.

Commercial supermarket "honey"

Commercially processed "honey" brands sold on supermarket shelves are the biggest culprits here.

2. Pollen is filtered out of honey meaning that it is no longer considered pure honey.

Honey filtering

Honey which crystallises quickly, especially when cold, is more likely to contain pollen.

3. The geographical and botanical origin of honey is faked or hidden by filtering out its pollen and blending together multiple honeys.

Blend of EU and non-EU honeys

If your honey label does not contain the floral or country of origin of the honey, it is most probably a blend. Watch out for "Blend of EU/non-EU honeys" on the label.

If you are buying honey in the EU and the country of origin is not listed in the list of 45 countries in EU directive 2016/601 then the honey is illegal and can be dangerous to consume due to the presence of chemicals harmful to humans.

EU 2016 601 screenshot

So how is the average person supposed to check that they and their children are eating real honey?

Firstly, check that your honey jar has the name, address and contact details of the supplier.

Secondly, ask them these five questions to check if your honey is genuine or not.

1) Is your honey pasteurised (heat-treated) to over 45C?

2) Is your honey fine-filtered?

3) What is the region, country and plants where your honey comes from?

4) (If you live in the UK or EU) Is the country where your honey comes from on the list of 45 countries in EU directive 2016/601 allowed to legally export honey to the EU?

5) (For organic honey), what is the name of your organic certifying body?

In general, avoiding large commercial brands and sticking to specialist food shops, farmer's markets or reputable online honey suppliers is a good way of ensuring you are buying real honey.

Be wary of any honey labelled "organic" if it does not have a green organic certifying code and symbol.

Be wary of any honey being sold with a phone number on the label but without the name and address of the company.

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