There's something funny going on with honey, says Consumer Council
Watchdog says some brands contain sugar, but firms say it's the testing that is flawed
Several brands of honey sold in Hong Kong have been found to contain rogue ingredients and some labels incorrectly state the origin of production.
The Consumer Council has referred its findings to the Customs and Excise Department after tests showed 14 brands of honey contained sugar or sugar syrup.
A customs spokesman said action would be taken "if there is enough evidence" to show any brands were in breach of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
The council was unable to provide specific figures on the amount of sugar in each product as it was a "very small quantity", making it "hard to quantify", council chairman Professor Wong Yuk-shan said.
The global standard for honey says it should not have any added ingredients.
"Fundamentally, honey should just be honey," the council's chief executive, Gilly Wong Fung-han, said.
It tested 55 brands of honey. Of the 14 found to have failed testing, several claimed to be "natural" or "pure", in contravention of labelling rules.
The watchdog highlighted several makers, including the 250g Catalo New Zealand Active UMF 10+ Manuka Honey, one of the most expensive products at HK$378 a jar. It said it was uncertain whether the contamination was deliberate or occurred during pollination.
"One possibility is when the bees are looking for … nectar from the flower, they get it from other sources including syrups and that's why it becomes a mixture in the source of honey," Wong said. "The other possibility is the manufacturing process. Some kinds of syrups or sugars are being added."
He said it was up to customs to decide whether to take action.
Seven other honey brands had a mislabelled origin. Chong Kun Dang Healthcare Honey 800g infers it is made in Korea, but it actually comes from the mainland. The product also contains trace amounts of sugar.
Catalo nutritionist Jase Tsoi said the company disputed the council's method of laboratory testing. "We are sceptical about the sugar test method used for manuka honey," he said.
"The method they used is an old method by which a high percentage of high quality manuka honey would fail. In comparison, honey with lower quality usually passed the test."
Nicola Charles, founder of Blue Hills Honey, another product found to be contaminated, blamed the council's results on premature and faulty testing. "We categorically deny we do anything artificial. The method of testing in the lab is faulty."
Previous testing found some honey was watered down. In 2006, traces of the drug chloramphenicol - associated with a rare but potentially life-threatening bone marrow side effect called aplastic anaemia - was found.
14 THAT FAILED
Catalo New Zealand Active UMF 10+ Manuka Honey, 250g, HK$378
hnz New Zealand Manuka Honey UMF 10+, 500g, HK$228
Nature's Nectar New Zealand Manuka Honey UMF 15+, 500g, HK$508
Just Honey New Zealand Gold UMF 15+ Manuka Honey, 250g, HK$219
New Zealand Honey Co BioActive Honey Natural Manuka 10+, 340g, HK$199
Comvita UMF 10+ Manuka Honey, 250g, HK$310
Blue Hills Honey Tasmanian Manuka Honey Methylglyoxal, 500g, HK$329
Watson & Son Manuka Honey, 250g, HK$258
Centifloral Honey, 460g, HK$33.9
Taiwan Shan Nong Pure Longan Honey, 1.8kg, HK$116
Yan Kang Taiwanese Longan Honey, 1.8kg, HK$87.50
Chong Kun Dang Healthcare Honey, 800g, HK$68
San Yie Centfloral Honey, 1kg, HK$80
Bright Leechy Honey, 1.4kg, HK$85
Source: Consumer Council