FSSAI quizzes CSE for not conducting SMR test on honey brands; seeks details

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Food safety regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has 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 the FSSAI-prescribed tests were not conducted by the environment watchdog.

In a statement, the 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 FSSAI has requested for details of the samples and the tests conducted from CSE,” the statement said.

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.

Honey brands from the houses of Emami (Zandu), Dabur, Patnajali Ayurveda and Apis Himalaya have refuted the claims made by the CSE.

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. 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.

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