Leads to China
Down To Earth|December 01, 2020
Tracking down the imported syrup being used for honey adulteration

FSSAI directive on import of golden syrup, invert sugar syrup and rice syrup used for adulteration is a dead end

Chinese trade portals like Alibaba advertise fructose syrup that can bypass tests

Same Chinese companies that advertise this fructose syrup that can beat C3 and C4 tests also export to India

ON OUR trail to probe adulteration in honey we had two leads. First, beekeepers not getting a fair price for their honey indicated possible adulteration with sugar syrup thus reducing demand for raw honey. Second, government suspected adulteration as it had not only introduced tests to detect sugar syrup from rice or corn, but had asked for tests that would catch sugar syrup, which is undetected by the laid down standards for exported honey.

So, now the next probing question was: what is this syrup? Who makes it? Where does it come from? Our clue came from the May 2020 FSSAI directive that specified that “golden syrup, invert sugar syrup, rice syrup” coming into India needed to be tracked as these could be used to adulterate honey. So, we started to find out about these syrups and thought this would be easy.

But when we checked the export-import database of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, two of the named syrups—rice syrup and golden syrup— could not be found. Each product imported into the country has what is called the harmonised system (HS) code that describes the type of good that is shipped. There were no codes for these syrups. It seemed we had reached another dead end in our investigation.

We also found that what was called “Invert Sugar Syrup” had an HS code, but when we looked into this, the imports were in small quantity—only about 1,300 metric tonnes (MT) in 2017-18 and 2,500 MT in 2018-19. This was not a significant quantity to indulge in a large-scale adulteration of honey. FSSAI’s clue left us with no leads.

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