The May 24, 2017 issue of the Apis Information Resource News is now available. It contains information on the international honey market, which is characterized as reaching a point of inflection with respect to prices, testing and quality:
Most concerning in terms of “quality demands” are ultra filtration and resin technology. The first has been around a while and is not much of a surprise. However, resin technology is another matter. Mr. Phipps writes: “One of the chief forms of adulteration of honey is through the use of resin technology which introduces and removes water in order to remove pollen and antibiotic residues, thus disguising country of origin and enabling transshipment to avoid U.S. anti-dumping duties. By introducing and removing water, the application of resin technology results in the adulteration of honey according to prevailing international definitions of honey. Resin technology also removes color components, as does ultra-filtration, thereby enhancing the value and price of honey.”
Fortunately, there is a technology known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that is becoming the testing protocol of choice. And a growing database of honey that has passed the NMR test is now available for comparison across the world.
The best way to show that honey is not adulterated is through pollen analysis, noted Vaughn Bryant in the May issue of Bee Culture as I reported on last month. He lays out the case in his article, “Searching for Pollen in Honey: It’s Not as Easy as You Think,” that pollen is pretty scarce in a lot of honey on the market. One reason is due to little if any regulatory activity oriented toward honey adulteration, principally because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limited funding for this kind of thing. When confronted with this situation, it often punts the problem to the states, which also don’t have the resources.
Although it is obvious that Professor Bryant in pessimistic about all this, concluding that the FDA will probably only act when somebody dies eating honey, further along in the magazine is a more optimistic article by Robert Packer of the Perkin Elmer Corporation dicussing infrared spectroscopy. This technology along with something called principal component analysis (PCA), Mr. Packer suggests, could potentially be used to confront honey adulteration, if given more research effort.
The obvious organization to push and contribute to this kind of research is the National Honey Board (NHB), which swore in its latest members this month. Its activities under a relatively new CEO are listed by Project Apis m (PAM) Executive Director Danielle Downey in the May edition of the organization’s electronic newsletter. The research funding of the NHB will in fact be under the management of PAM going forward, so perhaps we will see some effort on the adulteration front in the future.
Beyond the U.S., other countries are looking to find technologies that will investigate honey fraud/adulteration. A series of conversations on this topic can be found at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation’s Technologies and Practices for Small Agricultural Producers website (TECA).
The issue also discusses Varroa control, given research that beekeeper behavior is now becoming more important as a concern in mite dispersal and survival, featuring some comments from other observers:
The conclusion: “In feral colonies, if mite numbers reach levels that severely weaken the colony, bees will not swarm and the mite dispersal strategy is undermined. If a feral colony dies, the mites risk dying with it. In apiaries, high mite numbers that weaken colonies activate the dispersal mechanisms associated with robbing. Varroa dispersal from colonies that are not collapsing also might be occurring with drifting foragers that are carrying mites. Viruses that varroa transmit may mediate this manner of dispersal by the effects they have on the physiology and behavior of bees.
“The varroa mite that entered the United States in the 1990s that was kept at low levels in managed colonies with well-timed miticide treatments perhaps no longer exists. The mites and the viruses they transmit have become increasingly harmful to bees, and the collapse of colonies has been co-opted as a dispersal mechanism. However, this cycle of mite increase, colony weakening, and mite dispersal can be broken by adopting beekeeping practices and mite control strategies with broader sensibilities to the type of pest that varroa has become.”
See the full post here.