Suspicions of adulterated honey in European markets

March 27/2023

According to the results of a coordinated project on honey published by the European Commission, 46 per cent of the honey imported from outside the EU is suspected to be non-compliant.

Sixteen EU Member States participated in the monitoring project coordinated by the Commission. During the project, 320 samples of honey imported into the EU were examined, 147 of which showed sugar originating from other sources. Finland was involved in the project, but no honey was imported directly to Finland from non-EU countries during the sampling period.

Compared to affordable sugar syrups, honey is a valuable product and this attracts fraud. Because of unfair competition, the amount of honey produced in the EU may decrease even further.

The aim of the project was to examine the authenticity of the honey in the European market. Because sugar is the main constituent of honey, it is difficult to ascertain to what extent honey has been adulterated with additional sugars.

The addition of sugar syrup to honey was partly examined using a new analytical method, the development of which will continue in the EU. Suspicious consignments of honey were discovered using the method in question. In addition, when other examinations such as on-site inspections and forensic investigations were carried out, it was possible to identify definite cases of adulterated honey. 

Project results

The project coordinated by the EU reinforced the assumption that some of the honey imported to the internal market is suspected of non-compliance with honey legislation. The majority of the samples included in the project originated from China (89), Ukraine (74), Argentina (34), Mexico (22), Brazil (18) and Turkey (15). The highest number of suspicious consignments originated from China (74%, 66/89), but suspicious consignments were also imported from Turkey (93%, 14/15) and the United Kingdom (100%, 10/10).

Thirty-seven operators have been suspected, and sanctions for the adulteration of honey with added sugars have so far been imposed on seven of them. No Finnish operators were subject to these suspicions. The results of the project show the importance of cooperation between the authorities at the national and international level.

 Further information on the project

Further information:

Hanna Brotherus, Leading Legal Counsel (crime in the food chain and cooperation between authorities), tel. +358 50 555 3987,

Helena Pastell, Senior Researcher (laboratory analyses) tel. +358 50 375 0968,

Tuulikki Lehto, Senior Specialist (honey legislation and information reported on honey), tel. +358 50 558 2696,