It is getting more difficult to tell good quality honey from substandard varieties that have flooded the market.

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Buying honey? Here are 7 tips to help test its quality

There is an old trick to telling real money notes from fakes - simply holding it up against light and bingo! But it's not this easy when it comes to food items.

For a majority of people, honey is a must-have in their homes. Honey has many uses, from cooking and making concoctions for hangovers to removing skin blemishes. 

But it is getting more difficult to tell good quality honey on retail shop displays, as substandard varieties have flooded the market.

Some unscrupulous traders mix honey with water, glucose or molasses for profit - usually at the expense of unsuspecting customers who cannot tell real from fake honey.

To be sure you are purchasing quality honey, the best option is to buy directly from a beekeeping farm, but not many people have the luxury of accessing such farms.

Mr John Maina, a bee expert with more than 20 years of experience, provided some tips on how to tell whether the honey you purchased is real or adulterated.

1. Taste: This is the easiest way to tell if your honey is adulterated. If the honey is pure, when you swallow, there is a tingling feeling on your throat that is between sour and bitter. He also notes that pure honey has a distinct aroma.

2. The tilting method. Turn the container upside down and the dripping of the honey will tell you whether the contents are pure or not. Pure honey, because it is thick, will follow a sequence or line to drain from the bottom of the container to join the rest of the honey.

3. Water method: You will only require a glass of water, hot or cold. Pour one or two tablespoonfuls of honey into the water. If it settles at the bottom of the glass, the honey is definitely pure. If it doesn’t, it will mix up with the water immediately.

4. Chemical analysis: This is mainly done at laboratories at the Bee Keeping Centre at Lenana, the Government Chemist and the Kenya Bureau of Standards. But Mr Maina notes that not every Kenyan can afford a trip to these institutions and it is imperative to master do-it-yourself tricks at home.

5. The matchstick or heat test: Dip a matchstick in the honey container and light it up. When the honey is pure, the matchstick will light up, but if it goes off, your honey most likely contains water, glucose, sugar or other additives. Mr Maina said unscrupulous traders add molasses, taking advantage of the fact that it has almost the same water content (1.2 per cent) as honey (1.42 per cent). Others fry sugar and add it to the honey on a ratio of 1:1 since it has the same flow as honey.

6. Spill test: Use a spoon to drip a droplet of honey on the back of your hand or any surface. If the droplet spills, your honey is likely adulterated but if it sticks in its thick form, it is original. You can dip the same spoon in the honey container and hold it up. If the honey trickles down slowly, you can tell it is pure but if it spills or trickles down quickly, it is definitely fake.

7. Vinegar: First mix honey and water and then add five drops of vinegar in the mix. If it becomes foamy, the honey is not pure.

One common mistake that farmers make is harvesting honey when it is not mature. This not only makes the honey appear light, rather than thick, but also causes it to ferment, because of high levels of water content after a few days of storage.

“Harvesting honey before it is mature will make it sour after keeping it for a while because of the presence of water in it,” Mr Maina said.


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