Fake honey holds labelling lessons | OPINION

Fake honey holds labelling lessons | OPINION


Opinion
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As the fake honey saga broadens, what lessons can food producers take away?

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EDITORIAL

OILS ain't oils, said the television commercial from years ago.

It could now be said that honey ain't exactly honey, either.

Earlier this month an investigation found some of the honey being sold on Australian supermarket shelves was in fact "adulterated", meaning it wasn't 100 per cent pure honey.  

Experts said adulterated honey was generally bulked up with rice syrup and beet syrup and other unidentified substances, which aren’t detected by official honey tests.

The poor bee industry already stands uneasy on the uncertainty of varroa mite entering the country, as well as crop chemicals impacting on hive numbers and the cost of the drought prompting further travel to chase blossoms.

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The "fake honey" headlines sent a wave of repulsion among consumers throughout the country, many unsure if what they were buying was genuinely sticky goodness from bees or not.

But does it even matter? Why would we care if our golden topping was not entirely genuine?

Put shortly; it matters a lot because it's food deception, and that could happen to any industry.

Honey is more than just the divine addition to a hot crumpet. Short of standing beside the beekeeper as she or he pulls out a frame and drizzles it onto one's toast, it's difficult to be entirely certain of what's in the jar.

Aussies love their food but hate being conned.

But that could be said of any processed food product, from strawberry jam to fruit-laced yoghurt, vegetable patties and frozen potato-bakes.  

Aussies love their food but hate being conned.

This all makes the importance of food origin labelling even greater. The ingredients indicator logo is now commonplace on many food products and is giving more clarity to consumers about what they are eating.

Asking: "Why isn't this salad made from 100pc Australian ingredients?" Or: "Where are the other 25pc of ingredients coming from in this muesli?" is becoming more common.

Food processing companies are realising the value in having a full gold bar (100pc) on the ingredients indicator.

Honey and horticulture are kindred spirits. It would be a disaster if the public stopped buying honey, forcing beekeepers to shut up shop.

This in turn could prompt financial opportunities for producers.

Although not one of the bigger players on the Australian horticulture landscape, the passionfruit industry recently heard that processors are crying out for Australian passionfruit pulp so they can satisfy that ingredients indicator.

It's becoming a badge of honour, a marketing tool and something to strive for.

The honey situation serves as a reminder of this.

Honey and horticulture are kindred spirits. It would be a disaster if the public stopped buying honey, forcing beekeepers to shut up shop.

There's a simple piece of quasi-algebra that's been around for a long time: no bees = no crops = no food.

For this reason, the whole "fake honey" saga should make everyone very nervous.

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