One of Australia’s biggest listed honey company and some of the country’s largest supermarket chains faced accusations of selling honey which was adulterated in 2018. In the initial stages, Capilano denied any tampering with its products and strongly criticized the type of testing used which was NMR (Nuclear magnetic resonance). The situation got exacerbated when Phil McCabe, the president of International Federation of Beekeepers’ Association (Apimondia) made a statement in which he believed NMR to be the most accurate test available and that the customers were not getting their money worth. Germany’s Quality Services International (QSI) lab was determined and was commissioned by the law firm (King & Wood Mallesons), to Interpol for further investigation.
Next stage interpreted the use of both NMR and C4 sugar test (Australia wide used) to detect any discrepancies. Results of NMR testing reflected that 12 out of 28 samples tested were not 100% pure honey. Although, those 28 tests passed the C4 test which indicated the importance of provenance in the supply chain. Capilano vigorously denied any form of adulteration in their products and demanded the review of testing mechanisms present in the honey market.
The Australian Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) quickly made a shift towards incorporating NMR technique which proved to be more reliable as reflected in an extensive database of QSI and testing results performed by different laboratories. The executive director of AHBIC Trevor Weatherhead mentioned in a meeting that the suppliers are finding ways around C4 sugar test to downgrade the quality of natural honey in Australia. All the major retailer brands were informed about the results of the testing so that those particular products can be recalled and removed from the shelves. ALDI temporarily withdrew two private labelled products that were quantified as adulterated by QSI. Woolworths mentioned about working more closely with the supplier to determine and review the substance of the claim in detail. Coles had already deleted those products and removed from the shelves as a result of a range review.
Activities like these are going to hurt the local market as well as the production of Agriculture. Evolving demand of the consumers and the verification of the products and associated ingredients becomes of utmost importance to match the growing complexity of adulteration and counterfeit in the food supply chain.