Pankaj Narayan Pandit, Founder, Trustee, SLK Foundation
Sales of Immunity boosters like Honey, sky rocket due to healthscare of Covid-19 ; With Covid-19, pandemic sweeping the world , a healthscare has gripped the elite urban dwellers. The so called “immunity boosters” has become a catchy buzzword Almost all advertisers have started using, #immunity boosters, to peddle their wares Honey, welknown for its anti-oxidant qualities, is called as super food in Ayurveda. Honey from brands like Dabur, Patanjali, Marico, has been enjoying great surge in sales
Branded honey in India found adulterated with sugar syrup : As per report from CSE(Centre for Science and Environment), most of the 13 brands of honey sold in India(except Marico’s Safolla) were found to be adulterated with sugar syrup . To add insult to injury, the sugar syrup was imported from , “now enemy nation” , China !!! Gullible consumers, who were happily slurping honey to boost immunity would be shell shocked It is not clear from CSE report, what was percentage of adulteration of sugar syrup in honey . However it seems, upto 50% of sugar syrup was added to honey . As per CSE, the Chinese product , was aptly named as “all pass sugar syrup”, This sugar syrup was designed to “pass” the conventional Indian laboratory tests, stipulated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for honey. As per CSE, to camouflage adulteration, the sugar syrup was exported from China as “paint pigment” ! Further it was found to be extracted, neither from known sources like sugarcane, corn (called as C4 source), nor from rice, beetroot(called as C3 source) Perhaps it may be fructose (fruit source) What is the secret behind “all pass” factory produced sugar syrup, whose presence can not detected by conventional tests stipulated by FSSAI FSSAI too , was conniving with branded honey makers, as it changed the testing standards frequently. FSSAI made Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy(NMR) test mandatory, only for exported honey, For domestic honey, this test is not mandatory, which means FSSAI chose to ignore this adulteration of honey in domestic market.
New technology(NMR) reveals the adulteration and deception Sugar syrup or corn syrup is a standard additive in most off the shelf , consumer products like tomato ketchup , fruit juices, etc However this particular syrup made in China, was specially designed to be mixed with honey, and pass undetected in Indian laboratory stipulated FSSAI tests It is claimed by CSE that only due to additional laboratory test — the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR), conducted in Germany, could only establish adulteration of honey with Chinese sugar syrup As per CSE, most of the 13 brands that were tested using the advanced NMR technique have failed. Dabur, Patanjali are the top brands that failed this test while Marico’s Safolla has passed the test (See detailed report https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/) Thus the intentions of Indian honey brands was to hide their use of sugar syrup in their packaged honey and deceive the consumers.
An intriguing trail led to evidence of adulteration : CSE found out that while the sales of branded honey were soaring yet demand for natural honey was falling as evident from falling prices The beekeepers in north India, were complaining that their natural honey which was sold @ Rs 150 per KG in 2014, is now getting less than half of the price @ Rs 75-60 per KG This led the CSE team to investigate the matter when they heard whispers that branded honey makers were using sugar syrup instead of natural honey in their products This adulteration was between 50-80% of honey Thus it may be correct to say that some honey indeed was added to sugar syrup as a flavoring agent !
Protracted media slugfest likely : The brands selling honey (like Dabar, Patanjali, etc) , Government of India, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) , Chinese companies exporting sugar syrup, and CSE will now surely engage in a protracted slug-fest in media Just like banned performance enhancement drugs may be used by athletes, (who may well go on to win an Olympic medal ! )The trick is in “not being found out” ! Similarly , the business of adulteration of honey is always one step ahead of the stipulated laboratory tests. As per CSE, FSSAI has been frequently changing the testing standards of honey , since last four years, without giving any reasons. CSE findings on sugar syrup in India’s branded honey, will be certainly disputed, challenged by vested interest parties.
Earlier CSE had exposed pesticides in cola drinks You may recall that in 2003, CSE had found pesticide residues in cola drinks, 30 times more than permissible limits This was due to fact that ground water in India has such chemical pollution The cola drinks in India, still have pesticide residues,more than permissible limits However the news has lost its shock value ! Indians were shell shocked then but now are gulping gallons of cola drinks, unmindful of pesticide residues !!! Similar thing may happen for honey as well ! However what are the root causes of the deliberate adulteration of a natural product like honey with sugar syrup? Is it due to craze to buy branded products by urban consumers, whose umbilical chord with mother nature has been cut long ago ?
1. Demand out stripping supply : As demand for a natural product like honey, milk rises, it is difficult to meet the entire demand by up scaling natural sources As pesticide use, and hybrid varieties of agricultural crops rise, the collection of natural honey is dropping, as reported by bee keepers In such a situation, collecting small samples of honey from far flung rural areas, upto the factory , must be such a tedious task! Importing a 200 tonn container of sugar syrup, must be not only lot cheaper but a lot easier too from logistical supply chain point of view! In addition, honey homogenized with sugar syrup looks sexy when packed in a glass container Sugar syrup does not coagulate or crystalize like natural honey, in bottom of glass jar, giving it a bad , un presentable look !!! Sugar syrup, flavoured with honey has everything that a urban consumer wants!
A highly placed source in Government of India says, “The placebo effect , may well be giving its health rewards to those taking the adulterated honey! Why CSE have to bring up NMR test now , to spoil the party”?
2. ऊस काळा डोंगा रस नाही डोंगा ,कारे भूल लासी वरलिया रंगा says a 17th century Maharashtrian saint It means that sugarcane may look unappetizing, being black in color, twisted in shape but its juice is very sweet Don’t judge a thing from its outward appearance ! This sums up attitude of urban consumers, who want coarse natural honey , as a homogenized product, packed in branded, gleaming glass bottles The real honey is more viscose, brownish color, less appealing in its appearance. Its natural sugar settles down at the bottom of glass container , giving an impression that it is impure and adulterated with Jaggery ! One of the tenets of Isho Upanishad, an ancient Indian text, says that falsehood embellished with gold is meant to deceive.
3. Honey is adulterated all over the world : India is not the only place in the world where honey is adulterated. In a similar way, honey is the most adulterated commodity all over the world, by adding sugar syrup. as per CSE report!
4. Elite urbanites oblivious to natural supply chain Many in cities now think that their food grows in super market chains They think that the water that flows out of their RO filters (or bottled water) is made in the factory by the machine, while truth is that natural water is purest as it falls from the sky , post evaporation. It is contaminated by human activity, like sewage, pesticides, chemicals, etc Since covid-19 pandemic , many city dwellers get their daily food supplies, vegetables, milk, fruits, etc delivered to the door steps, of their gated communities So the India’s urbanites have moved farther away from nature When any natural product is factory produced, (like milk, honey, ice cream etc) the look of the product, homogenization, its appearance, shelf life, packaging etc would take precedence over inherent purity , quality and natural taste of product. Similar adulterating evidence may be found in factory produced milk, ghee, or Indian sweets made from milk fat, called as Khava. To understand, how ignorant urban dwellers are , please read my personal experience of saving honey bees in garden city of Bangalore !
Killing own honey bees while slurping on sugar syrup, sold as honey: I live in an elite society , Sobha Opal, in Jayanagar, Bangalore Years ago, before it became IT capital of India, Bangalore was well known as garden city of India. As its natural flowering gardens, tall trees vanished, the honey bees adapted well They migrated in habitat of gated societies of Bangalore, making home in the tall buildings of city Bees found out that gardens of such urban part of Bangalore are full of flowers, moisture, even in summer, that they need to thrive However for elite folks living in these buildings, the honey bees are a pest !
Killing bees with pesticides : I was horrified that our society would get rid of such bee hives , by sprinkling insecticide sprays The bee hives with precious golden honey were razed to ground The bees would not die instantly The honey bees would be in a dazed state, for weeks Only when they were , run over by passing cars, were they liberated to end their agony All our neighbors, the most educated ones, would turn a blind eye to this heart wrenching site After all, Doesn’t PETA, focuse mainly on large animals like stray dogs, etc? Bees are not yet part of their charter.chatter!
Honey bees are protected under wildlife laws in India : I then learnt that honey bees are classified as wild animals as per Indian laws Honey bees are indeed protected by BBMP municipal wildlife commissioners Only after I complained to the BBMP wildlife commissioners, our elite society stopped killing these great creatures (Of course, I will not win a popularity contest in Sobha Opal , due to my efforts to save honey bees !) I am sure many societies in Bangalore, may be killing the honey bees in such manner. Simply threat of enforcing a law is not enough to solve a problem One must find a workable solution ,
Live and let live with honey bees : As we have seen since ancient Indian civilization, we have lived in a sustainable way with nature . And nature enriched our civilization with its rich bounties There are traditional honey extractors, who are tribals in Sunderbans. I wrote to KVIC(Khadi and Village Industries Commission ) and other NGOs, if they knew of traditional, skillful ways of extracting honey from bee hives They replied in negative (Seems their job is only to do pedantic research on honey bees or hold annual conferences on usefulness of honey bees , once in way ! )Only by sheer coincidence, I found one traditional guy, named Raju from India’s tribal community from Rajasthan Raju knew the art of extracting honey from bee hives, from his community , without killing them . Raju comes in a team that identifies and then smokes out the queen bee from bee hive, thereby driving all slave bees on way out Then delicately they remove the bee hive ,and catch it in a cloth before it falls to ground Then the honey is extracted from bee hive, filtered in loin cloth My NGO funded this operation for my society by packing it in PET jars and bulk buying of the produce , more than 200 liters of golden honey ! With our help, Raju could admit his son in an English medium school !
Problem of plenty : We get frequent requests from societies of Bangalore to clear their bee hives However I wish to clarify as below
i. My NGO is not into “pest control service business”! and honey bees are NOT pests ! Neither we plan to enter lucrative market of selling honey ! We have no place to stock the honey
ii. One must allow bee hive to mature so that there is honey in it So one must not try to remove bee hive immediately after it is formed Luckily most of bees of Bangalore are not biting types. Bees never attack humans , unless provoked
iii Bees mind their business, of collecting honey ! Once in way, a bee does get attracted to artificial light and may get way laid into your balcony or room One needs to take them out without hurting them
iv. Society must agree to pay reasonable charges to team of traditional honey extractors for doing such a delicate and dangerous job; bees make their hives in an inaccessible place, making job of extracting honey more difficult.
v. Please remember that the traditional bee hive extractors make a living selling natural honey They expect that the honey extracted is purchased by the residents at agreed price, after bee hive is removed These poor people have no place to store the extracted honey. So they must sell what they have extracted immediately Rich people must buy the entire product generously Honey has no expiry date In addition, the wax is used in Ayurvedic medicines If honey bees are killed, food production and flowering will stop Honey bees are important part of human food chain
Last Word : Bangalore can no longer remain a garden city, without its honey bees, responsible for cross pollination. Honey is invaluable for its anti aging and other medicinal properties. Honey has been widely used as base in India’s Ayurvedic preparations since ages. Rapid urbanization in India is claiming tall trees, lakes and forest cover. So honey bees are now found migrating to city’s gardens which have lot of moisture and flowering plants. The honey bees are now using high rise buildings of city in lieu of tall trees for making their bee hives. That honey bees are still found in a city like Bangalore means all is not lost for this city ! Bees have vanished from Mumbai, its suburbs like Thane as well due to rising pollution Unfortunately, today most of beehives , in Bangalore are removed using pesticide, not only killing honey bees but also making the valuable honey useless. Ironically, developed countries like USA, are doing extensive research for promoting honey bees. It is now proven that apart from producing valuable honey, the honey bees significantly increase agricultural crop yields due to improved cross pollination.Let’s learn to “Live and let the honey bees live” with us. Remember, without honey bees, there would be no flowers in our gardens
Pankaj Narayan Pandit is founder and managing trustee of SLK Foundation. (www.slkfoundation.in) SLK Foundation is 25 years old registered NGO with mission statement, Creating Wealth from Waste. SLK Foundation offers sustainable, cost effective nature friendly solutions in solid waste management, sanitation, health care . SLK Foundation promotes Indian nature cure therapies like AUT/ Yoga for most common ailments. SLK Foundation offers a nonviolent solution for removal of bee hives from Bangalore’s high rise buildings. We deploy India’s traditional honey extractors, who do not use pesticides when they remove bee hives. Honey is extracted from hives after releasing the Queen bee from the beehive. The bees are gently released without killing bees with pesticide. The pure, unadulterated honey collected is sold by our NGO after filtering @ Rs 800 per litre This is helping the traditional honey collectors make a decent living. In modern times, the honey bees have adapted well to make their home on high rise buildings email firstname.lastname@example.org