Massive supply of impure honey
It is posing grave health risks
to the public health
By Syed M. Aslam
Jan 29 - Feb 04, 2001
Pakistan produces of some of the best varieties of natural honey in the
world. The word 'natural' is being used deliberately to distinguish it from 'pure honey'
manufactured by mixing a number of chemicals without anything to do with the honeybees.
Many countries in the developed world allow the manufacture of 'pure honey', an
appropriate example of which is Germany which produces 15,000 tonnes annually but exports
75,000 tonnes of honey each year.
This fine line between 'natural' and 'pure' honey and the lack of
awareness surrounding it is posing grave health risks to the public health in a country
where honey enjoy a legendary medicinal powers backed up by religion. Despite producing
some 117 varieties of honey; some of which such as Sidrah (Beri or Ziziphus), Acacia and
Orange are regarded the best in the world, the local markets are flooded with honey made
from such harmful ingredients as sugar, alum, artificial colourings, spices such as
cardamom, and dirt. The last is added to fool the people that the honey is pure as
transparent honey is viewed as dubious.
The manufacture of artificial honey containing harmful ingredients
without any check and balance by the relevant authorities and their flooded presence in
markets across the country is posing grave health risks to millions of unaware consumers.
What is being passed off as honey is not honey but a cheap equivalent which not only
offers no benefits but also feared to cause serious medical problems to millions of
Natural honey comprise 21 different varieties of sugar the major
being laevucose, dextrose, and glucose 14 types of beneficial acids, and 181 other
ingredients including gold, silver and zinc. The artificial equivalent manufactured by the
unscrupulous elements does not contain any of these naturally healthy sugars, acids and
ingredients and in fact is full of cheap and harmful substitutes the primary being
sugar used as cheap additive.
While Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are the only two
producers of natural honey, Mianwali and Sargodha cities in Punjab have emerged as the
biggest producers of harmful artificial honey. Karachi, the single biggest consumer of
honey in the country, has not remained immune to this unscrupulous activity, those still
on a much smaller scale than Mianwali and Sargodha.
On the other hand, a reputable group of traditional medicines is also
engaged in the manufacture of 'pure honey', and that too with the collaboration of a
governmental agency responsible for scientific research. Of course, the manufacturer or
the agency has never tried to educate the people that 'pure honey' is an unmatched
equivalent of 'natural honey' in order not to jeopardise an already established market
niche of the branded product. The same is the case of a better selling brand of 'pure
honey' imported from Germany.
The artificially manufactured honey thus does not match the taste and
medicinal properties of natural honey. The fact that every single of hundreds of
traditional medicine manufacturers use 'pure honey' in their products pose further dangers
to an already threatened public health.
What makes the situation even worse is the abssence of beekeeping
knowledge and the general lack of public awareness towards honey. If the pollen is
extracted from the natural honey the honey will never saturate, contrary to the popular
but wrong public opinion that natural honey never saturates. In fact, all the big honey
producing and marketing companies of the world use powerful machines to filter the pollen
to stop the honey from saturating. The process does stop the saturation but it cuts the
real efficacy of the honey.
These big companies are also forced to heat up the honey at 160 degree
centigrade to make it flow as easy as water in the pipes of the automatic machines used to
fill the bottles. This also makes the honey to loose its real medicinal efficay. Natural
honey from which the pollen is extracted or which is heated to a temperature over 60
degree centigrade as well as artificial honey are not regarded at all as honey and yet the
relevant authorities fail to check the all-prevalent abuse of the first and the second and
the all-prevalent abuse of the third. The market is flooded with artificial honey labelled
as 'pure' as well as natural honey which is either heated to a high temperature or from
which pollen is extracted while unscrupulous elements keep on making loads of money.
So what can explain the increasing production of harmful artificial
honey. Certainly price is not the reason as pure honey is not all that expensive. The only
reason can be explained the lust for quick overnight profits as it costs just Rs 35 to
manufacture three big bottles of honey which guarantees almost nine-fold returns.
While Punjab has a beekeeping institute, Sindh which houses the biggest
honey market of Karachi is deprived not only of any such institute for the benefit of
small scale entrepruneurs but also lacks testing facility to ensure the quality of honey.
Though Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research does offer testing facility
it is highly expensive. Certainly, the public health deserves better attention from the