FSSAI seeks details of CSE tests on honey; questions body for not conducting SMR test

New Delhi: Food safety regulator FSSAI on Thursday sought details of the CSE tests that claimed to have busted adulterants in the top 10 honey brands, even as it raised questions over why its prescribed tests were not conducted.
In a statement, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said the CSE found the adulterants by using “the non-prescription” Trace Marker for Rice syrup (TMR) test instead of “a more sensitive” Specific Marker for Rice syrup test (SMR).
Stating that it has taken note of the CSE investigation on adulteration in honey, FSSAI said it had already made SMR test mandatory as it is “a more focused test to detect adulteration of rice syrup in honey.”
“It is not clear as to why some tests like SMR have not been conducted on the samples…,” the statement said.
“FSSAI has requested for details of the samples and the tests conducted from CSE,” it added.
Once the details are available, they will be analysed by FSSAI to draw conclusions about the protocols followed and suggest any improvements that are required in the test methodology for the future, it added.
On Wednesday, environment watchdog CSE claimed that honey sold by several major brands in India has been found to be adulterated with sugar syrup.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) food researchers selected 13 top as well as smaller brands of processed and raw honey being sold in India to check their purity. It was found that 77 per cent of the samples were adulterated with sugar syrup. Out of the 22 samples checked, only five passed all the tests.
“Honey samples from leading brands such as Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Zandu, Hitkari and Apis Himalaya, all failed the NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) test,” the study said.
Emami (Zandu), Dabur, Patnajali Ayurveda and Apis Himalaya have refuted the claims made by the CSE.
“One of the points raised in this investigation is about the non-prescription of Trace Marker for Rice syrup (TMR) for detecting adulteration of rice syrup in honey. In view of the fact, a more sensitive Specific Marker for Rice syrup test (SMR) has already been made mandatory and is a more focused test to detect adulteration of rice syrup in honey, hence, it was felt by scientific experts that TMR is not necessary,” FSSAI said.
This view was concurred by the Ministry of Agriculture, and hence TMR has not been made mandatory as a test method.
Regarding the utility and desirability of NMR for honey testing, FSSAI clarified that it allows rapid but database driven detection and quantification of various chemical compounds, especially for authenticating the origin of a sample of honey.
“Prior existence of a database is a necessity for effective utilisation of this technique. No such database exists at present for Indian honey and hence, NMR testing will have limited utility. The cost of conducting NMR test is also quite high and the volumes available at present would not be sufficient to motivate laboratories for investing in this high end equipment,” the authority said.
In view of lack of database, high skill requirement, high operating cost and high capital investment, FSSAI said its scientific panel has opined that NMR is not required at this juncture.
The scientific panel has also mentioned that India, of all the countries across the globe as well as Codex Alimentarius Commission, has the most stringent standards for honey, the statement said.
The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognised standards and other recommendations relating to food safety.
FSSAI said almost no food regulator in the world has so far mandated NMR as a test method for honey.
The authority said its instruction for checking adulteration of honey with golden syrup, invert sugar syrup and rice syrup was not erroneous. However, CSE has opined that this is an erroneous order because companies are using fructose syrup to adulterate honey.
“Action is required to prevent adulteration from various sources, and hence this order is not erroneous, but is a part of our ongoing efforts to prevent adulteration of honey,” the statement said.
As far as detection of fructose is concerned, the scientific team in FSSAI is of the opinion that the currently prescribed method EA – LC – IRMS is as sensitive as NMR, if not better, for detecting fruit origin sugars, it added.
“The parameters related to isotropic ratio and foreign oligosaccharides are meant for detection of individual fruit sugars. The isotropic ratio and foreign oligosaccharides coupled with C3 and C4 sugar detection can easily determine fruit origin sugars.
“It is not clear as to why some tests like SMR have not been conducted on the samples…,” FSSAI said.

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