A Canadian System for Detecting Fraudulent Honey

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $175,000
Commodity: Bees
Organization: University of British Columbia
Investigator: Leonard Foster

Quality assurance is essential to the safety of our food supply chain.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Honey is the primary source of income for most Alberta beekeepers. For the past few years, Canadian beekeepers have produced in excess of 41 kilotonnes (92M pounds) of honey annually, with Alberta accounting for 40% of that. On the world-wide market, there are many factors that can affect commodity prices for honey. One major concern is the passing off of cheap synthetic or adulterated honey as an authentic product, which can drive down honey prices. The Canadian honey industry, led by the Alberta beekeepers, has asked project researchers to develop a quality assurance test for honey.

Quality assurance is essential to the safety of our food supply chain: without it, we might unknowingly ingest life-threatening toxins, pathogens or allergens. Researchers envision the creation of a honey database, which could be continually added to as honeys are collected from around North America and the world.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

From this research project, researchers envision this quality assurance development to be used by the Alberta beekeeping industry to implement a certification program to be able to put an industry-backed stamp on all authentic Albertan honey products.

The goal of this research project is to develop an industry-ready testing system to detect fraudulent honey. This development would initially be used by the honey industry in a certification program. It should then be robust enough to be implemented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for regulatory use to check the authenticity of imported and exported honeys. This project will result in a new technology for detecting fraudulent honey. This will include methods for collecting data and software for analyzing data, as well a database of authentic honeys for comparison to.

Quality assurance testing for honey would help build public trust in the product and provide the CFIA with an evidence-based tool for blocking imports of false or adulterated honey. This will, in turn, benefit Alberta honey producers and packers by pushing up prices of authentic Alberta honey.

The health benefits of honey are well-known, both as a natural food and sweetener, and also as a healthier alternative to table sugar. The detection of contaminants and adulteration products will result in consumption of pure honey that is not contaminated with other sugar alternatives or unknown toxins, pathogens or allergens.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Project researchers anticipate the greatest value that will arise from the proposed project will be the database of honey spectra which enables retro-perspective data-mining. Project researchers expect that a new company will be created to manage access to the database and to continue to build the library. This company is expected to be a joint enterprise between UBC and the industry, likely represented by the Canadian Honey Council or the AB Beekeepers Commission.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.