The easiest way to tell if you’re buying real honey

What can you do to guarantee that the honey you’re buying is the real deal?

Are you buying real honey?

Did you follow the recent Australian honey scandal? In October, a joint Fairfax-ABC investigation revealed that one in five samples of local honey found along the eastern part of the country was fake. This included boutique brands and Australian-made honey found in many supermarkets.

Of the 38 honey samples sources from markets and supermarkets, it was discovered that 18 per cent (almost one in five) contained some adulteration.

This massive breach in trust has left a sour taste in the mouths of Aussie consumers, who are left questioning whether their honey is in fact the real deal or just a sweetened counterfeit.

A quick Google search returns numerous suggestions of how to test whether your honey is pure or fake. One test, called the ‘water test’, involves dripping honey into a glass of water to check whether it dissolves – adulterated honey supposedly dissolves, while pure honey settles at the bottom.

Another apparent testing method, the ‘flame test’, requires you to dip the tips of a dry matchstick in the honey and strike it on the matchbox as if to light it. If the honey is pure, the match will light easily. Fake honey is said to contain more moisture and the match will not light, according to one website. 

So, is either of these tests (or any others, for that matter) accurate in detecting the purity of honey?

According to Dr Peter Brooks, a chemist who tests honey in labs at the University of the Sunshine Coast, it’s unlikely. This is due to the varying consistencies found in natural honeys.

“Good fake honeys are made to mimic a real honey, and they're very hard to tell the difference between them sometimes. I don't think you can tell the difference on these simple tests,” he says.

“I've seen honeys that are really thin, as in they're not very viscous, and others they are highly viscous or crystalline, and they're still honeys, they've just come from different trees. So some would pass this test, some would fail this thumb test, but they're still honey – they just have different honeys,” Dr Brooks says.

So, if there’s no quick and easy way to check the purity of honey at home, what can you do to guarantee that you’re buying the real deal?

Professor Mark Taylor, along with a scientific team from the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Macquarie University, led the original honey-testing investigation. While he declined to reveal the names of the many brands that were sampled (to maintain the integrity of the study in the long-term), he says: “The only way to guarantee that you are getting real bona fide honey is to buy it from a local producer where you can see it coming out of the hive or produce your own honey yourself.”

There you have it: the best way to be sure your honey is legit is to go straight to the source (or, well, the hive). 

What are your thoughts about the honey scandal? Have you bought honey that you suspect is fake?



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    30th Oct 2018
    Stopped buying store-bought honey years ago. We have a producer a few kms from us who gets it straight from the hive and his honey is superb, and very inexpensive. Hope he never goes out of business. We buy in bulk lots from him once or twice a year - 6 to 8 kg at a time. The only down side is it comes in flimsy containers and we have to transfer it to other containers as soon as we get it. Not a big deal really, and worth the effort for the quality and saving.
    30th Oct 2018
    Why don’t you give him the jars you would prefer before you collect it that way you save “time and honey ...”
    30th Oct 2018
    Ah! Tassie again! Hard to fake Leatherwood flavour - nothing like it! Of course there are issues with Sucrose contamination, but during winter here they have to feed the bees with - Sucrose! because it is too cold for almost anything to flower.

    Everything we buy from a big supermarket has to be assumed to be fake, adulterated, overpackaged, contaminated or imported from far away. So support your local suppliers in the smaller shops. it might cost a little more, but you have better chance at getting what you ask for. Otherwise, grow it yourself.
    30th Oct 2018
    CAPILANO,a company mostly owned by Stokes's empire,a very greedy man who imported it from Argentina and China,adulterated crap,mixed with Aussie honey.The man who put it out there was Shane Dowling who is sitting in gaol for contempt of court,Stokes has large pockets,he was caught out using irradiated pollen,antibiotics and other contaminents
    30th Oct 2018
    Agree. I used to buy Capilano. Now wiser, I buy Beechworth honey. Australian honey, great taste
    30th Oct 2018
    Interesting. It was suggested that even sensitive equipment cannot do what you apparently say works Amelia and they have to send sample to Germany to get them tested. Who knows.
    30th Oct 2018
    Its being made by real bees. Fake bees make very little honey??
    30th Oct 2018
    Fake bees??? LOL
    30th Oct 2018
    For honey, I only buy direct from the apiarist at farmer's markets. Effectively anything from Europe is 'Chernobyl Contaminated' and/or heavily subsidised to the point where their dumping of canned tomatoes, bacon and olive oil are killing our farmers. US stuff all has corn syrup in it. Buy local wherever possible.
    30th Oct 2018
    A friend of mine has a hive in his backyard. The good thing is, he doesn't like honey, but is rather fascinated by the lives of bees. And seeing he gets about 30kgs every 6 months from his hive, there's always a supply of good quality, 100% honey for his friends and family.
    30th Oct 2018
    Place a spoonful of honey in a bowl and then poor hot water over it and spin the bowl gently. If it is honey it will form honeycomb hexagonal shapes if not its sugared. Its fascinating - give it a go.
    30th Oct 2018
    I buy from a backyard bee keeper, best honey ever. Farmers markets often stock good honey too. Or buy from
    31st Oct 2018
    Yes, we have bought honey that was not pure. If it crystalises you can put pure honey in the m’wave and it will turn it back into honey. The false honey stays hard like cement. I retuned mine to the supermarket. We bought the nicest honey when we travelled round Tasmania.

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