MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Alarm Over Fake Honey in Malaysia: 90% Suspected Counterfeit

The Malaysian honey market is currently grappling with a significant challenge, as up to 90% of honey products sold in the country are suspected to be counterfeit. 

Dr. Zulkifli Mustafa, a senior lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), brought to light a concerning statistic, highlighting the daunting prevalence of artificial honey in the market. This revelation highlights the urgent need for stringent quality control and heightened consumer awareness in the industry.

Detecting Authentic Honey

In addressing this widespread issue, Dr. Zulkifli emphasised the complexity involved in distinguishing genuine honey from fake products. Due to the sophisticated methods employed in creating counterfeit honey, laboratory testing becomes essential for verification. 

This point was emphasised during his interview with a local radio station, where he highlighted the challenges faced by the industry in ensuring the authenticity of honey products sold to consumers.

Dr. Zulkifli’s research extends beyond identifying counterfeit products to exploring the health benefits of authentic honey, particularly from stingless bees. 

These bees, known locally as ‘kelulut’, produce honey that is not only unique in taste but also rich in nutrients. He highlights that authentic stingless bee honey is a powerhouse of energy, protein, vitamins, good bacteria, and antioxidants. These components make it beneficial in combating inflammation related to various conditions such as bacterial infections, stress, obesity, ageing, and chronic diseases.

In-Depth Benefits of Stingless Bee Honey

Enhancing our understanding of stingless bee honey, recent studies have illuminated its unique nutritional composition. A notable discovery is the presence of trehalulose, a biologically active disaccharide, in stingless bee honey. 

Comprehensive NMR and UPLC-MS/MS analysis identifies this sugar, which is uncommon in other honey types. Trehalulose, distinguished by its 1,1-linkage between glucose and fructose, contributes to the honey’s unique health benefits.

Research suggests that trehalulose, along with other components in stingless bee honey, offers antioxidant properties, which are crucial for reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. The presence of trehalulose highlights stingless bee honey as a potential novel source of this beneficial sugar, distinguishing it from other honey varieties in terms of its nutritional and health-promoting properties​​.

The Challenge of Honey Adulteration

Dr. Zulkifli highlights the significant concern of honey adulteration in Malaysia in his research. He investigates the extent of this issue and observes that producers adulterate some honey products. They do so with substances like vinegar, to mimic the taste of genuine honey. This practice deceives consumers and presents health hazards.

It undermines the nutritional value and potential health benefits of authentic honey. Producers often add syrups or sugars to adulterated honey without disclosing them on the label. This leads to misleading information about the product’s true nature and quality.

Collaboration for Authenticity

In response to the widespread issue of honey adulteration, Dr. Zulkifli and approximately 4,000 local bee breeders have taken proactive measures. They are collaborating with USM’s application and commercial arm, Brainey, to ensure the production of authentic stingless bee honey. 

This initiative is crucial for maintaining the integrity of honey in the Malaysian market. Through strict quality control measures, they aim to guarantee the authenticity and consistency of honey products, thereby providing consumers with genuine, high-quality honey. This concerted effort signifies a positive step towards safeguarding the honey industry in Malaysia from the pitfalls of counterfeit products.

Safeguarding Consumer Health and Industry Integrity

The efforts to combat honey adulteration in Malaysia represent more than just preserving food authenticity; they also play a crucial role in protecting consumer health and maintaining the integrity of the honey industry. Furthermore, by ensuring the availability of genuine stingless bee honey, consumers can enjoy the full health benefits that this natural product offers. This is especially crucial in an era where the value placed on food authenticity is increasing.

References

  1. Fletcher, M. T., Hungerford, N. L., Webber, D., De Jesus, M. C., Zhang, J., Stone, I. S. J., Blanchfield, J. T., & Zawawi, N. (2020, July 22). Stingless bee honey, a novel source of trehalulose: a biologically active disaccharide with health benefits. Scientific Reports. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68940-0
  2. Up to 90% of honey sold in Malaysia is artificial, says expert. (2024, February 13). The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/up-to-90-of-honey-sold-in-malaysia-is-artificial-says-expert

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