The environment watchdog said FSSAI officials asked about the specific names under which adulterants were being imported from China.
Environment watchdog CSE on Friday said it shared with FSSAI the details of its investigation into the “well-organised” honey adulteration business.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had on Wednesday reported adulteration in honey sold by major brands in the country, adding that any claim by these companies of meeting all Indian standards “holds limited value” and was “jugglery” of language.
CSE director general Sunita Narain emphasised that the investigations had revealed that the honey adulteration business was sophisticated and that it was designed to bypass the purity and quality standards laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
The CSE said in a statement on Friday that it presented to the officials of FSSAI, including chairperson Rita Teotia and CEO Arun Singhal, the details of the investigation, including the step-by-step developments which brought the food fraud to light.
“CSE also showed how Chinese companies were openly advertising products to bypass standards on their website; how it had contacted these companies; and how it had procured the sample,” it said.
The environment watchdog said the FSSAI officials asked about the specific names under which the adulterants were being imported into India.
The CSE explained that on online trade portals, Chinese companies (the same companies that were exporting to India) were using ‘fructose’ and ‘glucose’ as the key words. The watchdog also provided information about the fact that fructose and glucose were being imported into India — 11,000 tonnes in the past few years. And that the bulk of this was from China.
The CSE said the FSSAI officials wanted to know about the tests conducted on the deliberately adulterated syrup samples, which CSE had procured from China and from a factory in Jaspur in Uttarakhand.
In India, the syrup was called all-pass syrup , CSE explained to FSSAI.
The environment watchdog said FSSAI representatives enquired why CSE had not asked for ‘SMR’ — specific marker for rice — in the spiked samples that were sent to the National Dairy Development Board laboratory in Gujarat for testing.
The FSSAI officials said SMR was required to detect adulteration by rice syrup and that the other tests, namely isotope ratio tests and foreign oligosaccharides, were unable to detect rice syrup adulteration, according to the CSE statement.
Our research has clearly established that samples adulterated even up to 50% can bypass our testing for C3 and C4 sugar, Ms. Narain said.
The FSSAI officials asked about the economics of the syrup and why it would be favoured over natural honey.
The Indian and Chinese syrups offered to us were much cheaper – while the sample cost was between ₹53-68 per kg, we were told that we could get the sample at much more competitive rates once we placed bulk orders, Arnab Dutta from CSE who was part of the study explained.
Also, he added, there is the element of convenience. This syrup is factory made and can be procured in bulk, as against the honey that would be procured from bee-farms in different locations of the country.
FSSAI officials also wanted to know if there was an existing database for Indian honey for effective screening for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) tests. The CSE explained that it had sent the samples for NMR tests to one of the top food testing laboratories of the world, based in Germany, which has the expertise and necessary databases for NMR screening.
Based on requests by FSSAI, CSE handed over the samples and documents to allow the regulator to take up the matter expeditiously and ensure that the nefarious business of adulteration is stopped, the statement said.
The CSE also stressed the urgency of the matter as it involved health, already compromised in the COVID-19 times.
The adulteration business is a double-whammy for us, as we have increased our honey consumption to boost immunity and that instead of honey we are now ingesting sugar.
“We know that overweight people are more at risk to COVID-19 and therefore, it is necessary that this extremely well-organised honey adulteration business, which is so bad for us, is immediately stopped,” Ms. Narain asserted.